Is Catherine Bewitched when she discovers she has a connection with Vincent and not the other way around?
When Jamie issued her report back to Father awaiting her return below the city streets, he struggled to stand and only thanks to Winslow’s help could he stagger back into his seat near at hand. “She said she knew nothing?” He asked with disbelief, “Why would she do that?”
Jamie explained about Peter’s presence and his theory that Catherine and her friend had been drugged and had memory loss, but also that there was no way of knowing until the results to the blood test came through whether or not that was so, and if it were then how long term the memory loss would be.
“So we are back to square one.” The dismay in Father’s tone was evident, “And the search parties have revealed nothing so far. Some have even reached Paracelsus’s domain and found it empty. There are no signs of habitation though Paracelsus is clever he would never leave a trace of his whereabouts. Even so, they found nothing to suggest that Vincent had been there. It is a mystery and we are only clutching at possibilities. Paracelsus might have nothing to do with this. We do not know how old the note was that Mary found crumpled in Vincent’s bin. It could be years old.” Even so, he could recollect no time when Vincent had received such a note and Vincent usually told him everything. It grieved him that he had not. “Where was I on the day Vincent disappeared, does anyone know?” Father clutched at straws, “Was I unattainable? Was Vincent looking for me?” Father looked around the sea of faces before him. They looked back blankly telling him nothing. Until Geoffrey spoke up, “I think you were consulting with William. Vincent was looking for you.” Father stared at the boy as if he had misheard him, and all eyes rested upon the boy. “You mean the day he went missing?” Father asked incredulously.
“I think so.” Geoffrey replied nervously, “I’m not really sure if that’s when it was. But there was a day recently when Vincent came and asked me if I’d seen you. I hadn’t at the time and told him so, but only later when I saw you return from the kitchen and knew that had been the way Vincent had gone, did I assume he had found you.”
“That would be the day I saw him intercept Mouse then!” Cullen cried amazing everyone who heard.
“He intercepted Mouse?” Father asked turning to Cullen hopefully, “Did you hear anything between them?”
“No, I didn’t listen. I was with Mouse, we were going to my chamber, and Vincent stopped us. All I know was that he asked us if we had seen you and then he held Mouse back to speak with him. Has anyone asked Mouse what they spoke about?”
Father shook his head, “No, because we didn’t know till now. However, Mouse knows Vincent is missing and he hasn’t said anything.”
“Ah yes, but you know those two, Father. They can be as thick as thieves. If I were you I’d get Mouse down here quick smart and see if Vincent confided in him about anything.” Cullen advised. Father had not needed the advice he was onto it, tapping out the command for Mouse to come to his chamber before Cullen had finished speaking, then that done all waited hopefully for Mouse’s arrival.
When it came the young boy peeked gingerly around the chamber entrance wondering what he might have been summoned for, and if he was about to be scolded, when Cullen took his arm and gently ushered him in. “Its alright Mouse, you aren’t in trouble, Father just wants to ask you a question.”
“Never took anything.” Mouse told Father guiltily.
“I never said you did.” Father replied suppressing a chuckle even though he was anxious to get to the point. “Mouse, Cullen tells me that you and Vincent stopped to speak a few days ago in the tunnels.”
“Yes, you remember Mouse,” Cullen reminded him, “It was on the that day you were coming to my chamber for some wood.”
Mouse nodded, he did remember, “Yes, so?” He asked nervously.
“Mouse, try to remember please because its important.” Father looked Mouse straight in the eye, “Did Vincent say where he was going, after speaking with you?”
Mouse shook his head, “Was looking for you.”
“And he never said about receiving any notification from anyone about anything?” Father asked hopefully.
Mouse shook his head, “Nope. Was looking for you.”
“Did you see which way he went after speaking to you?”
Mouse smiled, “That’s easy. He went back to his chamber.”
“So he didn’t go to the kitchen?” Mouse stared at Father. His look seemed to say that the kitchen was in the other direction. “Thank you Mouse. That’s all I wanted to know, you can go back to whatever it was you were doing now.” The young boy hesitated then realising Father meant it, he scuttled away obviously relieved that he wasn’t in any trouble. Still his arrival and departure had done nothing to lighten the spirits of those in Father’s chamber. “Then we are as much in the dark now as we were before.” Cullen remarked dryly. “No one saw where Vincent went, or knows why he told no one where he was going. As far as Mouse was concerned he was returning to his chamber…wait…unless…do you suppose he was coming here?” Father one step ahead of Cullen yet again was sifting through the papers on his desk, trying to remember what had been upon it the day that Vincent had disappeared.
“Found it!” He exclaimed to no one in general, though all eyes were upon him with hopeful expectation, as he pulled from the bottom of the pile a sheet of paper he kept upon the ledger where he jotted things down. Spectacles pushed high on his nose Father peered down at his own familiar handwriting dismissing the scrawl until he found that which he hoped to be there and gasped loudly. “He left a message…he left a message…” he began anxiously before reading it out, “Father, received word from Paracelsus, am going to find out what he wants. Don’t worry I’ll be careful. If not back by tomorrow, send search party.” Tears coursed down Father’s cheeks. “He left a message and I didn’t see it…I didn’t see it…oh Vincent forgive me…forgive me…” Cullen rushed to his side beaten by Winslow and the pair placing their arms around Father’s now frail shoulders hugged him tightly. “Don’t blame yourself Father, you didn’t know he’d left a message, you didn’t even know he’d gone anywhere, or that he was looking for you.” They hoped to console the older man but he was shaking his head sorrowfully, “I’m always here, always here, why did I have to go see William that day? I’ll tell you shall I, to get some blasted cookies, as if I’m not fat enough already! And all along my son needed me…what kind of patriarch am I…if anything has happened to my son I will never forgive myself, never do you hear me?” More sobs followed and the two men on either side of him hugged harder. Their eyes caught those of other concerned tunnel dwellers standing around the chamber. Knowing or not knowing what had become of Vincent was of equal anxiety…Paracelsus was a master of disguises and that no one had yet found what had become of Vincent even though they had assumed Paracelsus was behind it, only worried them further. Without a miracle they would not find him, all they could do is hope that Vincent would find some means of escape. But they were not optimistic. It had been four days already…in the past Vincent had got word to them by then…and that he hadn’t signalled whatever Paracelsus’s plan to be it was working and in the face of that and it didn’t bear thinking about, but they had to accept that Vincent might well be lost to them for good.
“Father!” Jamie cried as hope surged forth and all eyes were turned to her. “The woman! The one from above…she said she shares a connection to Vincent…if anyone can find him she can!” Eyes bright Jamie challenged Father to deny her, and just as she’d hoped he brushed aside the comforting arms of the two men at his side and cried, “Do you think she could?”
Many doubts dashed through Jamie at his question, but she shook them resolutely aside, “Yes, Father I believe she can. She came down here didn’t she? Had no reason to know that Vincent lived down here, and her friend, Jenny, she sees things, visions like Narcissa, I’m sure that together they could find Vincent no matter where he is. Oh Father, I’ll go at once and bring them down here shall I?”
Father waved her onward, “Go Jamie, bring them down to us, tell them they must come. Someone call Peter, perhaps they will come with him if they refuse to come with Jamie. No matter what, bring them to me. Any hope no matter how slim, any chance no matter how ludicrous it might be is better than what we have now. For what we have now is nothing and without this woman who seems to have a remarkable gift for tracking my son, we might never see him again. So go, Jamie, Godspeed, and bring her back with you.”
The change in Father was incredible. Hope surged through the older man and that he clung to the possibility of the stranger being able to track his son went without saying. For the last four days Father’s sullen eyes had betrayed his feelings, he was fast losing hope, and since the sudden enlightenment that Paracelsus was involved all those round about had seen the only hope he’d had left dashed to pieces. Well now they’d seen it rise from the ashes and knew that Father placed everything, his whole trust and hope upon the strange woman from above that said she shared a connection with his son. And the tunnel dwellers were fired with optimism that he was right and that Jamie would bring the woman back with her and Vincent would soon be found but not one of them could have imagined that the woman might refuse to help.
*** *** ***
Cautiously, Jody reached the final step and with a coded knock that signified her presence to those within the building, she waited for the door to open. “Sure you weren’t followed?” The guard ushered her inside and peered from left to right behind her and then down the stairs.
“Absolutely.” Jody replied as she accustomed her eyes to the darkness beyond the stairwell. “Where is everyone?” The guard closed the door, fastened the locks and without replying signalled by the beam of his flashlight that she should follow him. They crossed the room, some forty yards of open space going by the echo their footsteps made on the tiled floor until the beam encountered a door where upon the guard tapped a signal. Minutes later it was opened and a shaft of light deluged the room beyond only long enough to grant the visitors entry.
“Did you get it?” Jody turned at the sound of the voice she recognised, “Yes, here. They said it would be the last though, no matter your promises. Something about you being even now.” Jody eyed her mentor suspiciously but he was not forthcoming, just extracted the bag from her grasp and peered within. “It will have to do. There should be enough. Can’t give him too much of this drug it could have an adverse affect on him. He’s not like most people.” Jody watched the man she knew as John cross the room and pour the contents of the bag into a jar labelled with its name. It hardly filled a quarter of it, but she knew that was enough to render up to fifty people incapable of remembering anything for several weeks.
“So where is he?” Jody’s quick appraisal of the room had revealed little to answer that question, and John was not about to enlighten her. “The least you know, the better it will be. This isn’t the only drug available my dear, there are some that will loosen the tongue.” Though he smiled at her, Jody detected his mistrust. She supposed she couldn’t blame him, he had striven for years to accomplish this particular plan and she had to admire him for having succeeded without even using Jacob Wells as bait as she had presumed. She knew John, he would feel elated that having taken Vincent from that particular patriarch of the tunnels any punishment he had felt Jacob Wells should receive would be well and truly apportioned over the last few days. In fact, she had heard along the grapevine that the older man was out of his mind with worry about his son’s disappearance but refrained from telling John so. He had his own dogs, so they could sniff out such information and report to him. After all, if John was going to keep her in the dark, why shouldn’t she withhold information from him too?
“After tonight I want you to return below. Don’t come back here, your journey will be wasted, for I don’t expect to be staying in this part of the city much longer. Now that I have what I want, there is no need for me to return to the tunnels. And in actuality, another place has been reserved for my son for some time. We will be happy there and undisturbed and with my guidance my son will soon obey my every command. No more of this whimsical fantasy that has surrounded him for the past thirty years. My son is a warrior, aptly named and I aim to see that the world soon knows of his existence, but in my own time, no one will force me to reveal him before the due time.”
Jody thought John spoke in riddles, but then he often had. It was hard keeping pace with him, and in many respects, she wondered if he had lost his mind. The years had been hard and filled with the bitter knowledge that his son might be lost to him…well now all that seemed to have changed, but it did not alter the fact that John Pater otherwise known as Paracelsus to his enemies had a perverted sense of justice when it came to achieving his goals.
“Well in that case…” Jody announced making for the door, “If you no longer need me?” She asked indifferently not expecting he did, “Shall I go now?”
John Pater nodded, saying nothing, his eyes revealing nothing, only when she left the room did he signal to the guard his intent with the sign of a cutthroat. Understanding his master’s demand one nod of the guard’s head signified that the deed would be done and by the time he returned, the darkness that Jody encountered as she left the room had become hers eternally. Her body would not be discovered for several days more and by then John Pater, his one remaining soon to be extinguished guard and the one he called his son would be long gone – slipped away into the fissure of life where he expected no one could follow.
*** *** ***
Four days became seven, and Peter a constant visitor to Catherine’s apartment had to stand and tell Jamie time and again that his patient remembered little of what had happened to her and nothing whatsoever of any connection she had shared with Vincent. In fact, that ability if ever there was one, had become a constant irritation to Catherine herself.
Jenny, remembering a little more than her friend had tried over the last three days without any success to have Catherine respond to anything she told her. And it seemed more and more likely to Jenny and finally to Peter that the drug was only partly responsible for Catherine’s memory loss, and that in the main she simply did not want to remember. Jenny supposed she could not blame her for that. Since the attack, she had seen her friend change from the courageous woman she once was to a shadow of that former self, almost afraid to go anywhere, if it meant going alone. Still having to sit by and know that so many people relied on and hoped that Catherine would remember made the passing days even more poignant and tragic, both by being acceptable and unacceptable in view of the facts surrounding her friend.
Down in the tunnels wasn’t much different. Jamie ranted that Catherine deliberately refused to comply with their demands that she helped track Vincent, and Father with the quiet acceptance of Peter’s counsel that Catherine simply could not remember, along with the fury that John Pater had robbed the young woman of her memories and a remarkable ability to trace his son. Whether or not John knew of that gift he did not know, but if he had of known, Father could well imagine John laughing that the drug had killed the gift. And it was that as much as anything else that goaded such hatred to rise in Father. To have a gift so remarkable thrust upon them and then snatched away was a crying shame, and in his heart, the loss was almost too much to withstand.
As far as Catherine was concerned, life was returning to normal whatever that was, so long as people stopped bothering her. It had become obvious that something had happened because so many people, sane people insisted that she had had something remarkable and she no longer possessed it. But not being able to distinguish between that now beheld to that which was lost all Catherine knew was that the ability to feel connected to anyone other than her father simply did not exist. In fact, it was almost laughable, and Jenny’s latest remark that she had actually confided that she could feel the fellow’s heart beat alongside her own almost sent her running screaming from the room, now that was ludicrous!
So, in a world deemed as near normal as she could remember, Catherine set about continuing with her life to the best of her ability in so far as others would allow. She went to work, came home, went to bed, got up went to work, each day much the same as the next person believing that everything was right with her world while resolutely forcing away any niggling doubt that it was not, until the day that Joe asked her for a date.
“Pardon?” Incredulous Catherine’s face beamed at her boss sure that she had misheard the question.
“I said, if you aren’t busy maybe we could go out to dinner this evening?” Joe tried to keep his eyes locked with hers but they shifted away annoyingly and became pinned to the rubber band that he pulled this way and that between his fingers.
“And that would be for what reason?” Joe detected the humour in Catherine’s voice and raised his eyes from the rubber band to meet her gaze.
“Everyone has to eat Radcliffe, even you.” Joe passed an appreciative gaze over her curves. She had a beautiful body and he knew she worked out.
“Are you asking me out on a date Joe?” Something in the way she asked sent tender hooks galloping through Joe. He was in two minds how to answer, deciding in the end to be truthful.
“Guess I am, Cathy.” He told her hopefully.
Strangely, Catherine wanted to nod and agree to go out with him, and he thought he saw that until she drew her brows together and told him, “Sorry Joe, but I can’t.”
Anxiously Joe asked, “Why can’t you? I happen to know that your diary is free for this evening, I checked it myself…” he laughed a trifle embarrassed to have confessed that, “unless you have a little black book you keep at home.”
“Something like that, Joe. I’m sorry but I’m not free tonight or any night.” She spoke almost sadly. Joe detected the sorrow in her tone and had to know why it was there.
“Don’t you fancy me?” Joe laughed nervously hoping she wouldn’t confirm that particular suspicion.
“Its not that.” He noticed that she tugged at her lower lip with her teeth in a very becoming yet apprehensive way before taking a deep breath and continuing, “Joe, you are a great person and good looking…”
“So why do I get the impression that there is a very big but tagged on to the end of that Cathy? Something you can’t or won’t tell me?”
“I wish I could tell you. I can’t even make sense of it myself. Just accept that I can’t go out with you Joe, and leave it be okay?” For a moment, he wanted to do anything but that, but the look of resolution on her face changed his mind. He didn’t think he had ever seen her look so determined about anything. She wasn’t going to tell him her reasons and that was that.
“Sorry, Cathy. Forget I asked okay?” Sadness stood between them. Catherine felt terrible. He’d only asked for a date not to marry her for goodness sake…and she felt so foolish for refusing…but…
Joe was right, there was a very big ‘but’ tagged onto the end of her refusal and it was one that even she refused to acknowledge. All she wanted at that moment was to get out of her office, run home and hide in a corner from herself and the terrible, terrible truth…
There was someone else, and what was worse…the feeling of his heart was suddenly and erratically pounding alongside her own…
*** *** ***
For the first time in his life, and from his new vantage point, Vincent was able to see the sun rise over the city of Manhattan, and while this sight gave him a merit of happiness he wished not to see it. For to be unable to see it would mean that he would be back beneath the city in the rocky subterranean world he called home.
A week already, his father would be frantic and John Pater seemed only to take great delight in that fact. “Now Jacob will see what it is like to have one’s only son snatched away from him. He will know the pain that I have known and it will be intensified since he knows not where to find you.”
Vincent found it impossible to reply, not that he couldn’t he wasn’t gagged just that his heartache prevented words from bubbling forth. But Paracelsus knew from Vincent’s disposition and the sorrow in his eyes that he was affected by his imprisonment and the fact that he was unable to send word below that he was, at least, well.
“It won’t always be like this Vincent.” Paracelsus told him one morning, when again Vincent had refused the meal set before him. “There will come a time when you will thank me from releasing you from bondage. Just look at that sunshine, have you ever seen anything so beautiful? I can give all this to you and more. You will see the world my son, you deserve to see the world. What could he give you?” Paracelsus laughed derisively, “A rock? A mirror pool? Maybe a waterfall? I can show you endless waterfalls and we will start with Niagara. You will be left spellbound by its immense power, awed by its beauty. Vincent, did you believe that the father cared for you? How could he when you were denied so much that was rightfully yours? Thus, you should be grateful that I have taken you away from your dungeon and set you free to roam the earth. You and I are destined for greater things, my son and I am eager to have them underway.” He paused gauging the effect of his words upon seemingly deaf ears, “Try to eat, Vincent. We may have many days travel ahead of us, much of it on foot, you will tire out if you do not keep up your strength.”
The only indication Paracelsus had that Vincent had heard him was a shrug of the younger man’s shoulders and a deliberate shove of the plate set before him signifying his refusal to eat.
“As you will.” Paracelsus sighed, “I will offer you no more until you beg me for food.” He told Vincent as he took the plate away. Vincent despised the man, “I would rather die first.” He told him venomously,
“So you do have a tongue in that head of yours, I was beginning to wonder.” Paracelsus beamed, for he had at last got a response from the younger man that was of human element. In the last seven days, all he had instigated were snarls and roars.
“I can see I will have to re-educate you my son. The things you believe to be important are not so, family ties will be a thing of the past. I am your father, have always been your father and yet I do not insist upon loyalty to me. Rather, I will introduce you to the world and it will become what you make of it, but no longer will you be shut away where you cannot be seen. You are a remarkable man Vincent, and the world deserves to know of your existence. Aptly named too, Vincent the conqueror, the one who possess great power and you will go down in history. People will write about you for centuries, my son.” Vincent detected the glow of pride in Paracelsus’ tone and he wanted nothing more than to wipe the smugness from his face. It was impossible though for chains still bound him to the floor. Chains that anchored to his wrists and harnessed around his torso prevented any chance of escape.
“And today my son you will meet a friend of mine who will help to put you on the road to fame. I have told him much about you, but it will be interesting I think to see his response when he finally claps eyes upon you for the first time. Seeing is believing, huh Vincent?” Paracelsus laughed. “I must go, he will soon be here and there is much to prepare. Try to stay clean Vincent, use the sanitation at your disposal, I would not want him to conclude that you are all animal. With my friend’s establishment behind us, we will rule Vincent, you, that friend and I will rule the world and you will leave men quaking if they dare to disobey our commands. Oh come do you find displeasure at such things, is that a frown I see? Don’t worry Vincent, after we have finished your new education you will see, as I see that you are destined for far greater achievements than having knowledge of Shakespeare and Beethoven. They are things of the past. It is time to move on, Vincent, time to move on.” As if on cue a small alarm set to go off at noon sounded in Paracelsus breast pocket, “I must go. Just do as I say, stay clean and be on your best behaviour for our guest.” Paracelsus laughed derisively, knowing as only he could that whatever behaviour Vincent displayed for his guest he could not lose. His colleague would pay a fortune for someone like Vincent in any capacity, there would always be a use for one such as he in such a worldwide establishment. And true, Paracelsus did deem himself to be the younger man’s rightful father, but when it came to wealth, Paracelsus would certainly part with such a relationship when gold was involved. If he was right, and he believed he was, then after this day he would be among the richest men in America. His colleague, he knew would pay anything he asked to own such a creature as Vincent. Laughing, Paracelsus made his way down the corridor to the room where he would meet his associate later that day and feeling elated. Yes for a certainty, any fellow would pay anything that he asked to own one such as Vincent and before night fell he would have more gold at his disposal than he had ever dreamed. Lucky he had stumbled upon his associate, lucky indeed for that chance meeting in a casino brought all his plans to fruition.
*** *** ***
Back inside the room, Vincent peered at the street sixty stories below and marvelled at the sight of the antlike creatures that swarmed the streets. His heart went out to them. Whatever their problem, and he knew there would be many he could identify with the feeling of hopelessness and desolation some might feel in not knowing a way out. He’d gnawed at his chains until his gums bled to no avail and he had tried throwing himself at the windows in the hope that shattering glass would bring someone to his aid, only to know the pain of toughened glass. Therefore, the sunlight streaming across the noonday sky almost went unnoticed in his bid for freedom. What would become of him, if he could not get free? Who would know where to find him? Who was there sturdy enough to ensure his freedom?
Winslow perhaps, along with a few of the strongest tunnel men, could put together become his stronghold, but such thinking was futile. If they searched anywhere for him it would be within their own subterranean world. Few would decide that he had been taken to and held captive in the city above. And on the slight chance that they did, where would they start looking for him? The city was a big place, and Paracelsus spoke of the world. His thoughts running riot Vincent tried desperately to find some kind of foundation to pin his hopes upon, but there was none. No body knew where to look, and while he remained hostile to his captor, he was unlikely ever to be trusted without the chains whereby he could do something about notifying one of the helpers of his predicament.
Even so, if he allowed himself to pretend that he had seen reason, it would not be something that would simply happen. Paracelsus would see through that facade. It would have to be done over time, time that Vincent was not prepared to give. His father, Jacob Wells, could wither and die from heartache in such time. Thus trapped and not knowing a suitable way out unless time was to lapse Vincent felt frustrated and angry at the injustices forced upon him. Caged like an animal he could see nothing of the promises Paracelsus had made him for fear of his escape. Thus he had to face the fact that he could well be in chains for years until he was subdued enough to be granted freedom and possibly only minimal at that. And as thoughts of the endless years in captivity stretched before him Vincent laid his great bulk onto the matting at his feet and with head on arms he rolled into the foetal position where he drew his greatest comfort. Oh to actually be able to reside there again, in the womb safe from hate and harm, with no eyes yet upon him, and a heart that thudded in harmony with his. He was nurtured and cherished and adored in his mother’s womb, those few months of gestation being his only sanctuary in all of his life, before life, and the only time when he was really free. “If only I could return to that safe haven.” He whispered as tears rolled down his furred cheeks. And though he had felt the need before, none was so poignant as now, for he literally ached to feel the softness of a mother’s breast enfold him and hear the soft lilt of her voice calm his shattered nerves. A mother’s lullaby that only now did he grasp, coming to him through the watery world of his safe place deep within the recesses of his furthest memories. Who was she that woman? Was it really Anna Pater? Did Paracelsus tell the truth? Was he really his son? If not then who? Who bore and brought him into the world? Who knew the history of his origins? Where could he find the truth?
Perhaps Paracelsus was right. Perhaps in some small way taking him out of the confines of a rocky home, he would place him on a road of discovery. Perhaps someone somewhere would come forth and claim him as theirs. Perhaps he would one day at last know a mother’s love. For this he had craved all his life. No matter the love and the attention bestowed on him by strangers, inside he had ached to know whom he really belonged to. Perhaps this way, he would find out.
Lost in thought he only half acknowledged the turning of the doorknob and did not move until he heard footsteps, looking up only when he heard a gasp that signified someone had set eyes upon him that had never seen him before.
“He’s magnificent! John your labours will be richly rewarded. I must have him. Name your price.”
From his place upon the floor, Vincent regarded the new man with suspicion. He had not a face he could trust, there was something sinister about those sparkling grey eyes and the mannerism in which the man moved and gauged a reaction from Vincent expecting to be mauled at any second. “The chains are necessary I see, and the harness too?” At Paracelsus confirmation, the fellow went on, “I will arrange transportation within the hour. Can you knock him out? You told me he has an adverse reaction to various drugs. How do you contain him? With a whip?”
Paracelsus laughed, “No, no. My son has gone undisciplined for the best part of his life thanks to his captor, but he is an intelligent creature and he can be made to see sense. It might take time, but if you are willing then you will have for yourself a loyal employee, one with immense strength and capabilities. Only never underestimate his intelligence, his IQ is at the top of the spectrum and I mean at the top. My son was the product of two highly intelligent people, with a history of intelligence in their ancestral lineage. It goes without saying there is only one such as he in all of the world and it will not be easy agreeing a figure. He is, you have to agree, priceless.”
“He most certainly is. Money is no problem Mr Pater. As I said earlier just name your price. We can deal in diamonds if you prefer?”
“No, gold bars as we agreed, please.”
“Then gold bars it will be. Leave us now, I wish to examine the beast alone.”
“Do you think that wise, he is not tranquillised.”
“I thought you said that he could not be drugged?”
“That is true, but there are some species of plant that I use with which to minimise his capabilities. Some leave him as quiet as a lamb. I will administer some if you wish?”
“No. I want to view his strength with my own eyes. For that I need to taunt him, do you mind?”
“When the gold has changed hands I will have no say in what you do with him. Till then yes, I must insist that you obey my rules. He must be tranquillised before you endeavour to go near him.”
The fellow was clearly impressed. The fear in John Pater’s eyes told him the truth of that statement. “As you wish. First we will see to the necessary transaction and then he will be mine?” Paracelsus nodded and followed the man from the room, leaving Vincent alone once more. Now more than ever fear gripped him. He’d been sold! Paracelsus had sold him when less than an hour before he had spoken of introducing him to the world, showing him Niagara Falls? Such lies, such deceit…Vincent was enraged!
*** *** ***
When the fellow returned, there would be no need for taunts for with the fury that he felt at that moment, Vincent would rent the man in two the moment he came close enough to touch him.
Thus, he waited, curled seemingly innocent, biding his time…if he couldn’t escape now… the chances were he never would.
It grew dark seemingly without Catherine noticing. One moment she huddled tight in a corner of her bedroom facing the outside world through dancing drapes, the next all she could see of life was the glimmer of lights through an eerie pattern. This way and that the drapes danced and Catherine’s focus remained upon them seemingly following their every movement as if her life depended upon it. For though they moved to the tune of the wind, they seemed to Catherine to be the only solid foundation with which to cling to in an otherwise unstable world.
She couldn’t even trust her own body anymore. It betrayed her rudely, insisting that another could take form and override her sensibility that she was one, one being, one person, one heart. Instead inside there were two as the gentle and sometimes furious heartbeat alongside her own signified that another had dominance over members she no longer had control of. ‘This must be what it is to go mad’ Catherine told herself after hours of ruthlessly trying to ignore the rapid heat beat sounding in her ears. ‘I’m possessed, I have to be.’ Still no voice replied to her, only that onward, continuous thumping that was sometimes carelessly indifferent, other times stupendously enchanted or as now dashing with an incredibility of disbelief and fury for something not yet beheld.
Within Catherine noticed the shift in emotions and could only speculate to their cause. If it was him, as she supposed, the one to whom everyone maintained she shared a connection before she’d encountered a memory loss that was slowly returning then he was distraught about something. However, Catherine did not feel inclined to help in any way, wanting only to dismiss the feeling of his heartbeat thudding within her ears, that had seemingly taken root alongside her own heart. Placing a hand to her opposite wrist, she could almost imagine the staccato beneath the touch of her questing fingers until she realised the impossibility of such a thing. Though the pounding of her pulse told her that her own heart beat within her chest she well knew the folly of expecting to connect with another alien, foreign heart inside that was not her own. How then, if she knew that, could she be so certain that the restless pounding in her ears, the absolute belief that she could feel his heart’s life force was actually so? Did she just imagine it? Or was she possessed? On that night he had rescued her in the park, had she contracted something from him whereby for ever after he would have some mighty hold over her? More importantly, why could she feel him? For what purpose should she know how he was feeling to such a degree and how long would it continue to cause her vexation?
For it proved to be a constant aggravation to Catherine, who having almost accepted that it was there for a reason, could not foresee it ever giving her peace unless she listened to what it asked of her. ‘What do you want with me?’ Catherine screamed into the darkened room of her apartment where the dancing curtains mocked her fear. ‘How can I help you?’ She sobbed, head in hands, ‘how can I help you?’ she whispered, until a feeble response met her questing that seemed to say, ‘F…R…E…E… …M…E…’ with every significant heartbeat within. Tears coursing down her cheeks Catherine brushed them aside furiously with the palms of her hands and spat at the room, “How? How can I free you?” But her question remained unanswered as the pounding within tapered off to a mode of utter peace and tranquillity. Stunned at the sudden change in his heart’s tempo it took all of Catherine’s concentration to ascertain the reason and focused as she was, Catherine almost forgot her own annoyance and fear of circumstances thrown upon her while she pondered the cause for the changes within.
It was as if she were sat in the wings of a play, breath held, awaiting the ultimate climax, the grand finale to a sight not yet beheld as the darkened room only emphasised her predicament of not quite knowing the way forward. It seemed to Catherine that along with her the whole world waited as even the wind died and the dancing curtains ceased in their movements. Transfixed Catherine stretched tired limbs, listened and winced at each disjointed click as she tugged herself into a standing position with the aid of a chair at her side. Then on automation she crossed to the balcony and almost nervously peered through the drapes that had held her attention for the best part of four hours and looked out onto the street below.
Nothing different there and normality resurfaced at an alarming rate and caused Catherine to teeter on the edge of the terrace, knuckles white as she held tight to the wall for safety. Feeling faint, she pulled a wrought iron chair out from beneath its matching table and sat down grateful for its support of limbs that suddenly felt as though they did not belong to her. Her stomach growled signifying the length of time since she had eaten, and reminding Catherine that her weakened state was probably due to going without since breakfast. Still the thought of food was unpalatable, and groggily Catherine edged her way back into the apartment with the aid of fixtures and furnishings until she reached the kitchen where she was able to make herself a hot drink. Chiding herself with a slight giggle Catherine reprimanded her tired mind that though it might insist it was so, alcohol was not what she needed, her brain was fuzzy enough, however some kind of sustenance would keep her going until her world righted itself again.
Moments later and a mug of hot coffee held fast between her palms Catherine sipped at the black brew and began to feel whole again. ‘Chandler,’ she reprimanded herself with a bout of shaky laughter, ‘You go girl, you go. Possessed my foot! The only thing that possessed you girl was the stupidity of fanciful notions. That woman has a lot to answer for!” Catherine told herself as she thought of her friend Jenny with a wry grimace knowing she would tell her so just as soon as she had finished her coffee. Jenny would be home about now, Catherine thought. It had been dark a couple of hours, it had to be around six oclock.
On cue the clock in her bedroom sounded, the distinctive chimes rocketing through her in an otherwise silent room. Strange how the darkness emphasised the stillness, yet the absolute quiet within a house was almost deafening in itself when noises one took for granted at any other time announced themselves with terrifying clarity. Like the distinctive chime of her bedroom clock, announcing that it was in actuality seven o’clock in the evening rather than the assumed six.
Putting mug to table, Catherine folded her hands neatly onto her lap and rested her head back against the sofa facing the window. The drapes trembled only slightly now as the city beneath grew quiet. It was the midnight hour, the one before the absolute. A time when for mere moments the city waited in hushed anticipation for the night call to begin. The time when children went to bed and parents after a hard day’s work relaxed in front of television sets, and those going out for the evening were just leaving their homes. Those few moments when Catherine, on an otherwise nonchalance evening far removed from this one would take time to just sit at the table out on the balcony drink in hand and let the world go by. A distinctive time, one Catherine never grew tired of those split seconds of paradise in an otherwise crazy city.
Signing, Catherine listened for the telltale click that would signify the end of her moment and the beginning of the next trimester in the heart of the Big Apple and was rewarded with the roar of an engine eighteen floors beneath her. The corresponding shouts from gleeful partygoers met her ears seconds later, trailing on a breath of wind that spiralled its merry way up from the street below.
She smiled, it was all so typical, so expected so ordinary. Her life was ordinary, she was ordinary. For a moment that thought process led her to feel sadness for an honest appraisal of a life she knew to the wavering possibility of being something she wasn’t. Of having something, someone she could never have. Panic, sudden and swift seized Catherine’s heart and then in a split second she knew that the thought process, the panic attack wasn’t entirely her own. From somewhere deep inside her another was awakening and with a startling transparency of being ensnared.
Furiously almost as if her hands and feet were bound with chains Catherine shook those limbs in a bid to free herself attuned to the silence of her movements as if she had expected the sound of metal links pounding against each other. Disorientated, Catherine ran around her apartment feeling that the walls themselves were caving in on her, as the desolate feeling of entrapment enveloped her wholly.
“What’s happening to me!” She wailed as that feeling of possession swept over her again and she looked around wildly for means of escape. The door was not a possibility neither was the balcony, each posed a threat she was not prepared to take. Breath rasped in her throat and she fought wildly, kicking out at unseen monsters while the drums beat furiously within. And then just as suddenly as before she slumped into an armchair as all fight drained from her limbs and a peacefulness washed over her, taking her floating on the crest of a tropical wave to paradise, an Elysium where she found absolute tranquillity from which she never wanted to rouse.
While across the city, another lay motionless in stupendous languor the affects of a tranquilliser dart flitting in soft harmonious waves over a restless body. Aptly named the conqueror slept muzzled and bound and watched over by one that was not – a said angel turned ruinous – the one known as Gabriel.
*** *** ***Chapter Eight
Though she did not speak, Peter recognised the whimpering sounds at the other end of the telephone as belonging to Catherine, and flinging a few things into his doctor’s bag he fled his house, jumped into his car and sped the shortest route to her apartment. Grateful that she had given him a spare key at some time in the past few months, he inserted it into the lock when she did not answer the door. “Catherine?” he enquired to the dark interior feeling panic rise as he gingerly reached for the light switch.
“Here”, the whimpering voice told him her whereabouts, and as the overhead lamp illuminated the room he found her crumpled in a corner as far from the door that she could get trembling and as white as a sheet.
“Whatever’s happened, honey?” Five long strides had him beside her and knelt at her side, one hand resting on her brow the other grappling blindly into his doctor’s bag searching for his stethoscope and a thermometer he knew to be there. Finding both, he shook the latter before placing it beneath her tongue and with his breast watch counted several precious minutes until he was satisfied that he would get an accurate reading. Catherine watched wide eyed but said nothing grateful for his company, placing her utmost trust in this long time friend and family doctor. “Your temperature is high, how long have you been like this, honey?” He asked her checking her for anything. At the back of his mind was the fear that she had been attacked again though he could see no visual injuries that would attest to that possibility.
“All day. Well all afternoon at least.” She whispered. Since his arrival, things had not felt quite so bad, but she was sure that the moment she were alone again…
Catherine shuddered and Peter quick to notice asked, “Want me to call someone honey? Your father perhaps, or Jenny?”
Catherine shook her head. “Just tell me what’s wrong with me, Peter.” Tears glistened on her lashes and spilled over onto her cheeks dragging a fatherly response from Peter. Safe in his arms she snuggled against him happy to feel his arms around her holding her tight and close. Distraught to see her so Peter waited unbearable long moments until her tears dried and he felt fit to prompt her again, “What happened honey, can’t you tell me?”
“I wouldn’t know where to begin.” A forced smile graced Catherine’s lips as she drew back and gazed at him with watery eyes.
“Are you in pain, did you fall, did someone hurt you?” At each question Catherine shook her head and as he finished lamely with, “then what?” she told him, “Peter I know this will sound silly, but there is something inside me.”
“Something inside you!” Peter drew back his attention at once focused on her midriff, “Are you telling me that you think you are pregnant?”
Catherine laughed, it felt so good to laugh and once she started, she found it hard to stop. Shaking her head, she told him, “Oh no, no, Peter, I’m not pregnant.” And laughed some more until what she really felt tugged at her somewhere within to remind her that a baby would have been preferable and explainable.
Wide eyes and trembling lips prompted Peter to draw her close again, “I’m here, honey, I’m here.” Holding her without further question until her trembling subsided and with a determined effort she pulled away from his embrace to tell him in a voice he could barely discern, “Peter, I think I am possessed.”
Had it of been anyone else, Peter would have laughed. In fact, the need to do so bubbled forth and was stopped on the brink before he embarrassed himself. Thus deadly serious he asked her, “Can you explain that Catherine, what exactly is it that you feel inside of you?”
“A heartbeat.” Catherine told him and her words brooked no doubt that she believed that was so.
“A heartbeat. I hear only one Catherine.” Held to her chest the stethoscope spoke no lies.
“I tried that, Peter. Well in a way, I traced my pulse and could feel only one beat, but believe me, and I know it sounds insane, but Peter within I can feel the harmonious beat of another alongside that of my own. I can even hear it drumming in my ears. Peter, its sending me insane. Why are you laughing?”
Peter unable to hold back another moment allowed his laughter to bubble forth, as much from relief as anything else. “Catherine, you have a middle ear infection.” He told her and watched the young woman’s face light up with relief. “A middle ear infection? Oh Peter I feel so foolish!” Life was good again - she was not going mad!
They laughed together, and Peter rummaging through his bag found a few antibiotics that would get her started until the drugstore could make up the prescription the following day. “I’d better just check my theory however.” Peter told the young woman before he put his equipment away and looked into both her ears expecting to see the enflamed ear cannel that would confirm his suspicions, but he found nothing. Perturbed he was undecided what to do, to tell her of his mistake or to suggest that he stayed until he was able to find out exactly what her problem was, but the relief he had seen on her face was too precious to undo. “Tell you what Cathy, instead of antibiotics I’ll leave you a couple of tranquillisers for a good nights sleep, and you can come to the surgery tomorrow. This equipment is as old as the ark, but at the surgery, I have up to the minute machines that will allow me to delve deeper into the ear cannel to locate the problem. Peter knew he was fabricating a story for her benefit and hoped that she would not see through the ruse but his hopes were dashed when cocking her head to one side Catherine asked him pointedly, “Its not my ears is it, Peter? There’s another problem isn’t there?”
“It could be your ears, and I should check that matter further before issuing you with antibiotics,” he played for time, “but you are right it might not be an ear infection, it could be something else.” Suddenly he managed to sound more convinced than he felt when he added, “You’re like a daughter to me Catherine. I just want to make sure that’s all. You deserve the very best treatment I can offer you.”
Still, her head slightly cocked Catherine drew her brows together, “I don’t buy it. Peter you are toying with me. If its not an ear infection what do you suppose it is?”
“Honey, I shall need to run some tests. I can’t be completely sure until I do. Is there absolutely no way that you couldn’t be pregnant?”
“Absolutely not, unless this is another immaculate conception in the making. There that’s well and truly told you the status of my womanhood.” Embarrassment turned Catherine’s cheeks a delectable shade of pink that Peter found somehow enchanting.
“Well thank goodness there are a few of you left.” He hoped to make her laugh and succeeded as her state of acute embarrassment turned to giggling girlhood laughter. One he had not heard her utter in a good many years but one all the same that spun him away to a time when he had spent a happy afternoon with Charles and Caroline and their pretty, young daughter in the garden attached to their house.
Together they stood at arms length eyes bright as Peter packed away his things. “Thanks for coming Peter. I appreciate it.” Her heartfelt gratefulness came over in rushing waves, and Peter’s smile intensified. “That’s alright honey, anything for you. Know that, Catherine, I am never put out any time that you need me. Never hesitate okay? I’m only at the other end of that telephone. Now be a good girl and take those tranquillisers. They might make you sleep late so I’ll schedule you an appointment about midday will that be suitable for you?”
“Yes, thanks Peter.” She fingered the two small blue pills he had given her, rolling them over and over in the palm of one hand, sure that the moment he had closed the door behind him, she would do as he asked. A good night’s sleep where she could put everything out of her mind seemed oh so welcoming. However, even before Peter had alighted into the elevator and as Catherine placed the first pill inside her mouth with the intention of following it down with the water she held in the tumbler in her right hand, the telephone rang and she snatched it up with the left. Spitting out the pill she answered the call, “Hello?”
“Jen, is that you?”
“Yes, Cathy. I know this might be an absolute indisposition at this hour of the night, but I have a favour to ask of you.” Her friend sounded worried.
Forgetting her own recent problems Catherine vaguely saw herself lay the two blue pills down alongside the tumbler of water as she listened to her friend’s petition. “Stupid thing, I left my bathroom tap running this morning with the plug in the bath and everything is ruined! Catherine, if it wouldn’t be inconvenient, could I stay with you for a few days, just until everything is dried out or replaced?”
Catherine laughed out loud. “Hey, its not funny.” Jenny scolded her friend but could not help a fit of giggles bursting forth, “Okay so it is, well sort of. So can I come?”
“Jenny, as if you need to ask. Come on over. Stay as long as you like. Actually, I’d be glad of the company.”
Never a truer word spoken in jest, for from the moment Catherine replaced the receiver back upon its cradle she felt the first stirrings of another being deep within, and knew that the intruder of her body was awakening from its recent slumber.
*** *** ***
Determined that Jenny wouldn’t notice anything amiss, Catherine resolutely forced the feeling away, letting her friend into her apartment with a chuckle. “Just run this thing by me will you Jen. How did you come to leave the plug in the bath and the taps running? Any normal person would, surely turn off the taps to have a bath or pull out the plug when leaving the bath.”
Jenny looked at her friend as if she might hit her, “Okay clever clogs, it was like this. I didn’t actually get the bath. I was running myself one, when I noticed the time, forgot the bath, hastily dressed and was out of that apartment in a flash. Now okay, you are going to think I never noticed I’d not washed aren’t you? Don’t deny it I know that look. But I did notice and I did remember, only not in time to prevent the bath spilling over and you know those wall to wall carpets that you love so much well they soaked up all the wet right through the apartment. I’ve had men in and out all afternoon, and the place is stripped down to the floorboards, the carpet is ruined and it will take the place at least three days to dry out sufficiently to move back in. Obviously it will be weeks before I can replace the carpeting or the floor will turn mildew and stink.”
Catherine, despite the seriousness of her friend’s predicament couldn’t stop laughing. And Jenny, though feeling she ought to scold her friend started to chuckle also. “So apart from my troubles, what gives?”
Drawing her brows together, Catherine questioned, “Pardon me? What troubles?”
“Now, now Catherine, you can’t spin one past Auntie Jenny, I have a remarkable talent to see through the veneer that you put before you, but underneath I know that something is troubling you.”
Catherine sighed, “And there I was thinking I’d got clean away with it. Come let’s go sit down, and I’ll tell you what’s been happening since we last saw one another.”
The tale took all of one half hour and Jenny was clearly concerned, “So what, you can feel him now? That is right this minute?”
Catherine nodded, “Its going to send me nuts Jen, I can’t cope with something like this. It should be happening to someone like you. I’m sure that you would be able to cope.”
“Probably true, but also true that it’s good that you do know someone like me. I don’t know if you can stop this from happening…” Catherine gasped at that confession and Jenny was quick to reassure her, “never fear, Jenny’s here. I think I might be able to help.”
“How?” Hope flared in Catherine’s heart.
“What we need to do is channel this thing progressively. We know that Vincent is missing, I presume still missing, whether or not we have heard the last of that I do not know, but assuming he is missing then that would be why you are hearing whispers of ‘free me’ echoing along with the feeling of a heart beat. You say that at times the sound is restless at others calm. This could be due to whether he is awake or sleeping, and as wonderful as the respite must be when he is sleeping, I think you have to calm the effects of his waking period and channel his fear into something constructive.”
“That all sounds ominous, Jen.” Catherine told her friend nervously.
“Maybe, but if he is calling for your help then you have no choice but to aid him.”
“That’s all very well, but you remember what he said. He couldn’t feel me inside as I could him.”
Eyes wide Jenny gasped, “You remember that! Just how much of your memory has returned Cathy?”
With a wry grimace Catherine confessed, “Pretty much all of it. I know now that we did go into the tunnels, did meet Jamie, and Para what’s his name and part of Vincent. That is we heard his voice. I have to admit that voice did something to my insides that isn’t repeatable.” Catherine laughed and Jenny joined her, “You too? I thought he’d only had that effect on me.” After a while her laughter subsided, “Seriously, Cathy, how do you view this fellow? I mean I’ve had visions and I know he’s not normal in the sense of everyday living normal, but he has a great spirit and honesty you would probably find hard to locate in any other man. To say he’s probably the only one of his kind, Cathy, to my mind, means more than what it implies.”
Catherine nodded, “But what is he to me? Can you seriously imagine me living happily ever after with a strange looking man that keeps to the shadows in the bowels of the earth? I’m not a night bird Jen you know that. I love to socialise mix with people, I’m not ready to live the beauty and the beast fantasy no matter how it looks.”
“I’ve thought long and hard about that Cathy. One might assume that since you are connected to this man you are soul mates. In truth I would like to think that were so, but stranger things have happened during Samhain, and so I have my own ideas about the relationship between you and Vincent.”
“Okay, I can see you are dying to tell me, so go on, let’s have it.” Catherine leaned back against the back of the sofa and propped herself into a comfortable position with the aid of the cushions there. She had a feeling this might take some time.
Following her example, Jenny too, made herself comfortable and with one leg folded beneath her so that she might sit sideways on the sofa and thus facing her friend, Jenny launched into her theory.
“We don’t know that Vincent has never been connected to anyone in his life before, but it’s a sure bet that he hasn’t, simply by his reaction to it. And it would appear that this Paracelsus fellow has been a constant threat to both Vincent and the tunnel dwellers for a good many years. You know I’m a great believer in returning a favour and I think that’s true of most of us. I also believe that unwittingly our conscience also bares this responsibility. Strangely, for years, I have had a disturbing dream about a man who wears a cloak to hide his face from people and he has lived in seclusion so as not to frighten others. There are times when I have felt his pain and his sorrow at who he is, and the things that are denied to him that any other normal person takes for granted. Now why do you suppose I should know about him but it is you, my very best friend that has this remarkable connection with him?”
“Your theory is interesting Jen, but that bit loses me. Why should I have the connection and not you?”
“Because of the timing. That night Cathy, the one when you went to the theatre with me I might add…” Jenny watched her friend’s eyes light up and knew she was making the connection.
“I don’t think I need say anymore.” Jenny told her, and Catherine confirmed her suspicions, “You asked me to pop back to your apartment because you had forgotten your portfolio. Ordinarily you would have done that yourself but just at the moment you deemed it possible to leave, Mr Ogashi arrived unexpected and said his visit to the function was unscheduled because he had a plane to catch. One I might add that had been put on as an extra due to the amount of passengers requiring a flight to Barbados that day. Oh Jen, everything that day was out of the ordinary. I went in place of you and I was attacked and left for dead in the park. Those men didn’t care who they attacked, I just happened to be in the parking lot at the wrong moment. Had I not it would have been you, and it would have been you that Vincent rescued from the park…” Catherine gasped as the full import hit her and she and Jenny whispered together, “On the night of Samhain!”
“So you are his soul mate!” The relief in Catherine’s voice was definite and Jenny laughed, “Not so fast. Neither of us are his soul mate, Cathy. Some how in some way Vincent would have needed a saviour at some time in his life, and someone that could rescue him where without them he would never have been found. And I don’t know I might be wrong, but that night when he touched you by saving your life in the park you were bewitched because of the night that it was, and due to having me as your friend your conscience appeals to mine to help you understand what has happened to you. And the reason?” Jenny laughed, “There has to be a reason doesn’t there?” Catherine shrugged though her heart thudded in anticipation of the revelation to the crux of the matter, “Well I think its this.” Jenny drove her point home.
“Vincent was to need someone that could be connected to him in such a way that the person would be able to be guided by his fears, his cries for help in such a way that no one else would have been able to manage. Catherine with your training, and your connections in the field of law, and with me as your friend and my gift, we together provided for Vincent possibly the only way that he was ever going to be free of his tormentor and in so doing rescue him from those that mean him harm. Your conscience, Cathy, it wants to return the favour. He saved your life and now you will save his. And after that? Who knows, that will largely depend on the pair of you, but I know this that once the debt is paid you will no longer feel connected to him if you do not desire to be. Our lives are set as a tapestry ahead of us Cathy, all we have to do is fill in the colours. What happened that night was meant to happen and since it missed me, we are joint conspirators instead. So I tell you again Cathy, channel the feelings that come from him, and lead the way girl. Only you have the ability to know where he is, that’s assuming he’s been moved from the place where Paracelsus held us.” Her last comment elicited a gasp from Catherine. “I’d hoped that was a dream. Do you mean it was true, that it actually happened?” Jenny nodded, “I wasn’t sure if you had remembered that yet. Yes, Cathy, unfortunately Paracelsus broke in here and gave us something that allowed him to frogmarch us out of here and to his domain without any hassle. There he placed us in chains and used us to draw Vincent to the place, where once achieved he brought us back here under the same influence, gave us an added dose on arrival and whether it was set to make us forget or kill us we do not know. What we do know is that he set us free only to hold on to Vincent for whatever means he had plotted and whether Vincent is still there or not, only you can reveal.”
“I really thought it was a dream.” Catherine whispered, “Poor Vincent, he needs rescuing. But Jen, I can’t do it alone.” Jenny was elated, she’d expected all manner of negation from Catherine, and to hear her actually utter words that showed a conscious need to help Vincent moved her.
“That’s alright Cathy, no one was expecting you to. What we need to do now is go down into the tunnels, rally round some help and get this show on the road. Tonight if possible.”
That did it!
“Tonight! Jenny you can’t be serious, its way to late.”
“I shouldn’t think those in the tunnels are getting much sleep Cathy, and we are wide awake. I for one couldn’t sleep with all this hanging over me, and you can’t tell me that he has stopped troubling you inside?”
Catherine shook her head and told Jenny something quite amazing, “I know this sounds ridiculous Jen, but all the while you were talking it was like he was listening. And I can feel his hope renewed, Jen I can feel his hope renewed, its awesome!”
“That’s it then. Come get dressed Cathy, and find the flashlights, for who are we to let him down?”
Strangely, excitement began to build inside Catherine, and amazingly, she knew that only half of it came from her.
*** *** ***
Without Vincent’s presence among them, tunnel security had been stepped up, and the two women were encountered the moment they entered the storm drain.
“Who’s that?” Both ladies froze, they hadn’t even made it to the sliding door before they found themselves blinded by torchlight yet before either had time to run back outside for fear it was some mugger lurking there, they both heard a comforting voice that they recognised.
“Oh its you two, come to shoot up have we?” Jamie asked sarcastically. “Or have we suddenly remembered the way down here?”
“The latter.” Catherine chose to ignore the first comment. She had never, and would never take drugs and hated any reference to the fact that she might, still she let it go. Jamie was probably right, there were only a few plausible reasons why two women should wander inside a storm drain at that late hour and none of them had anything to do with socialising, or getting out of the wind. Such places were not safe at any time of the day, least of all after dark.
“So, tell me.” Catherine heard the faint hope in Jamie’s question and responded quickly, “I’ve remembered everything, and what’s more I think I can take you to where Vincent is being held.”
Derisively Jamie laughed, “And what makes you think he is still missing?”
Her first thought was to ask, “Isn’t he?” But Catherine dismissed that. He wouldn’t still be calling for help if he were back home, so she replied, “He’s calling to me, I know he needs help.”
“I don’t believe you!” Jamie snapped about to impart something malicious when Jenny cut in, “Catherine is telling the truth. We were there when Paracelsus brought Vincent down. We don’t know what happened after that, but that much I can remember. And Catherine can lead you to where Vincent is being held. You’ve got to believe us!”
“And why should I? How do I know that you don’t work for Paracelsus. After all you and he arrived in the tunnels at the same time that night. He used you to get to Vincent, and why? Why you? Why not one of us? It would have made more sense, Vincent doesn’t even know you!”
Jenny had asked herself that same question many times but now was not the time for that part of her theory, Catherine wouldn’t want to know that just yet.
“Look, we don’t know why, only that it is. And okay so you don’t have to believe us, but what other leads have you got? Please rally round some of your strongest men and women and let Catherine show you the way. Vincent will, through Catherine guide rescuers to where he is being held captive. Only don’t take all night, something tells me that we have to act now.”
“Don’t threaten me. We will do this at our own pace. Now wait here and I will send word. You’re right about one thing, you are our only lead so far, but don’t go thinking we trust you. You will be watched every inch of the way.” Hand to the mechanism shielding the tunnels from the three of them, Jamie opened the huge metal door, stepped inside and closed it after her. All Jenny and Catherine could do now was wait until the troops had amassed together and then begin the journey that would hopefully lead them to where Vincent was being held.
*** *** ***
I can’t fight this feeling any longer
And yet, I’m afraid to let it flow
What started out as friendship, has grown stronger
I only wish I had the strength to let it show.
I tell myself that I can’t hold out forever
I say there is no reason for my fear
Cause I feel so secure when we’re together
You give my life direction you make everything so clear.
And even as I wander, I’m keeping you in sight
You’re a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter’s night
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might
And I can’t fight this feeling anymore.
I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for
*** *** ***
And if I have to crawl upon the floor
Come crashing through your door
Baby, I can’t fight this feeling anymore.
(Reo Speedwagon – Can’t Fight This Feeling)
Looking back, neither Vincent nor Catherine could pinpoint a moment when it happened, but each of them knew the truth of the matter, that at some stage in their friendship they had come to mean more to one another than they had ever supposed they might.
The experience of being held against one’s will had done something to Vincent that had made him look at life with a completely whole new perspective. At Gabriel’s mercy with only the outcome of his evil intent to look forward to, Vincent’s future looked glum.
The pain of believing that he would never ever see his father again, never attend a child’s recital, never see the mirror pool, or sit fascinated by the splendour of the Great Falls or be awed by the beauty of the Crystal Cavern had broken Vincent’s heart and his spirit. And as Gabriel made preparations for their flight out of America Vincent’s waning hope of rescue were almost dashed forever.
Even the promises made by a madman that he would be given everything his heart desired in exchange for one or two personal whims, failed to bring any positive response to Vincent’s great and mighty heart. All he focused on was what he would lose, what he would never have again, and the helplessness of knowing that his family would never know what had become of him.
Gabriel, satisfied and fuelled by the excitement of having under his control a creature boasting the very best in a man and more besides envisaged for Vincent a life set apart from the norm and one where exposure would be of necessity but in so doing, Vincent would have the very best of protection that money could buy. All he had to do, was act in the capacity of bodyguard to Gabriel, while in the wings so to speak there would be others guarding Vincent’s back. Gabriel did not intend to take any risks where Vincent’s life was concerned knowing how precious that life was, though he did contemplate a breeding program that would finance him with others like Vincent in time. Thus Gabriel’s world opened up a foreseeable future where he could recreate, either by cloning or direct breeding, others like Vincent that could be put to use either in his own empire or at a price in that of others.
What he did not foresee in his ultimate planning was that one such as Vincent did not glorify in such a future mapped out for him. The things that Gabriel took as precious, had no desire in Vincent’s heart would slowly die without the love to which he had grown accustomed. However, many of those plans that Gabriel had in mind, were fortunately, for Vincent set for the future and the men that Gabriel intended to use to guard Vincent’s back had not yet been chosen. Therefore, they were not yet in place when Catherine, followed by a group of hefty tunnel dwellers, and Jenny made their way surely and deftly to the place where Vincent was being held captive.
The building was vast, an empire in itself, but led by a desire for good and captivated by a strength unstoppable Winslow, Cullen, William, Kanin, Mouse, Paul, Stephen, Jamie, Brook and even Peter who would not hear of stopping with Jacob, entered the basement of the building with Catherine and Jenny in tow.
“You’re absolutely certain he’s in here somewhere?” Winslow barked as low as he could muster, for his voice was unusually deep and husky.
Catherine nodded and confirmed that was so, but her fear could not be contained, “I have a friend, a colleague, Joe Maxwell, I could call him, and this could be done legally. There would be no risk for any of you to get hurt if the police were to help us.”
That she had proposed such a preposterous idea was evident in the gasps emitted by everyone around her, and Catherine felt so foolish. Of course, they could not call anyone. What reason could she give? And what would they say when they saw Vincent? Even though she had yet to clap eyes on him herself, Catherine was well aware that Vincent would turn heads and not for the better. “Okay so what exactly does he look like?” She found herself ridiculously asking as Winslow opened the door to the first floor stairwell.
Another silence surrounded her, as everyone appeared stunned at the stupidity of the question, and she shouldn’t have been surprised but was when Winslow told her, “Woman, I suggest that you and your friend stay down here and leave the danger to us. First sight of our friend might make you scream and we don’t want to have you to thank when this rescue attempt goes disastrously wrong do we?”
“What do you mean?” Catherine asked stupidly.
“Dork! Like you don’t know a scream would bring the guards running.” Jamie pushed past her on the way to the stairs leaving Catherine feeling very foolish indeed. Even so, she held back grateful for the chance to let them take over. She’d done her bit, they could do whatever they liked from hereon up, and she could rest assured that she had done all that she needed to do.
“Let’s go home Jen.” She told her friend turning on her heels.
“Home? No way, Cathy, you’re not going to give up now we’ve come this far are you?”
“I sure am. You heard what they said, I’m not wanted.”
“And who can blame them? Lord Cathy, I would never have believed you could utter such garbage if I hadn’t heard it for myself. Talk about drivel, what’s got into you woman?” Jenny exasperate..
“Oh like having this creepy feeling inside me isn’t enough!” Catherine had snapped making Jenny regret her own outburst.
“I’m sorry, Cathy. Even so, you can’t go now, you might even be wrong. Its possible he isn’t in this building, they might need your help further yet.”
“He is here.” All fight drained out of Catherine, and Peter who had lingered behind with the two women placed a welcome arm around her shoulders. “I’ll tell you what you want to know Catherine. Just as I brought you into the world, I was among the first people ever to see Vincent when he was a baby.”
Catherine’s mouth dropped open, “You’ve known Vincent that long?”
Eyes bright with amusement, Peter nodded, “I sure have, and never has he frightened me. Of course he looks different and none of us know his origins, he was abandoned at birth you know?”
“But Paracelsus…” Jenny exclaimed cut short by Peter with, “Said he was his father? Yes, I know, Paracelsus has always maintained that but whether or not it is fact, has never been proven. What is known is that John Pater’s wife Anna found Vincent wrapped in rags and laid under a bush in the snow in the grounds of St Vincent’s hospital, hence the name, but it was never established that her husband was Vincent’s rightful father. That was something John had made himself when he thought that Anna was going to take the youngling on as her own. And that was only because she had recently lost her own baby who had died. Anna didn’t see Vincent’s differences only that he was a baby needing a mother, as she was a mother needing a baby. They were right for each other at a traumatic time in each of their lives. However, Jacob also fell in love with the baby and as the tunnels only doctor the child’s welfare was left primarily to him, and of course, he grew to love the strange looking child. And that’s where the dissention came in, John wanted the child as his, being that Anna was his wife, and Jacob felt that the child was better left with him, and then when Anna died and John was ousted from the community, well then Vincent remained with Jacob. But that part as we say, is another story. The part that you are interested in, is I believe, Vincent’s actual appearance?”
There was a lot to take in, but over and above it all, Catherine very much wanted to know what Vincent looked like, while Jenny had a vague notion if her visions were correct.
“I could explain Vincent to you in all manner of ways to lessen the shock, but the easiest is to say that Vincent’s facial features resemble that of a lion.” He paused for impact and was not disappointed as both women gasped and Catherine clutched at his arm alarmingly.
“A lion?” Eyes wide, Catherine whispered hoarsely.
“Yes, that’s what I said. And he comes complete with fangs a roar and claws and fur, but through it all he walks upright on two legs, has arms like we do and speaks beautifully thanks to the teachings of Jacob and the literacy that he has been educated with. Vincent is the best of everything and he is a wonderful friend, a true counsellor and is gifted with a beautiful spirit. I don’t believe there is another like him in all the world and each person that meets him will endorse that fact. Vincent is unique and everyone that befriends him benefits from having him as part of their life.”
“And is he part of any particular person’s life?” Jenny asked pointedly.
“Well you know what he means to most people, so I take it you are fishing, young lady. Do you mean has he got a true love? A partner?” Bemused, Peter smiled.
Jenny blushed scarlet and was grateful for the low lighting in the basement that would hide her acute embarrassment at being sussed so easily. Peter chuckled, “There was someone once. But there was also a misunderstanding, and she didn’t feel for Vincent what he had hoped for. They parted company and it left him very alone for a long time.”
“Can’t say I blame her, oh, I know how you view him Peter, as Mr Magnificent, but really! Expecting that some woman would fall for him when he looks like that? I don’t think so!” Catherine retorted indignantly.
“Well you just wait till you meet him before you say things like that. And believe me, I think you would find yourself faced with a whole lot of opposition from the ladies of the tunnels, even if you were mildly interested in him. Vincent is protected and mothered by a great many ladies and they would not take lightly to newcomers entering their circle. You would be taken over the coals in order to be accepted as a partner for Vincent, and I don’t mean maybe. And you haven’t exactly got off to a favourable start among them have you?”
“Huh this is all immaterial anyway, Peter. I will not, and do not expect to have anything remotely to do with this creep, not now nor ever, so you can quit worrying.” Her words left Peter feeling very sad and Jenny even more so. Peter might stand loyal to Vincent, but Jenny stood loyal to her dreams and visions and Catherine’s dislike of Vincent was not on the cards, very much the opposite in fact.
Straight after Catherine’s final comment, the three fell into silence, for there was nothing more to be said. Catherine had made up her mind that was for sure, and anything either Peter or Jenny might wish to add on the subject they could clearly see would fall on deaf ears. And so they waited, each shuffling uncomfortably around in the basement, picking at this bit of peeling plaster or idly kicking at that small pebble on the floor thus, it seemed eons before either of them heard a rumpus from the stairwell that signified company was on its way.
“Better hide.” Peter dragged the two women behind what appeared the only safe place in the basement, a unit of shelves upon which boxes of folders were stored. From there they could see whomsoever came through the doors, and hopefully if they were quiet enough not be discovered hiding there.
The sound of the fire door opening caused Peter to hold his breath and then exhale with relief to hear someone calling his name, “Peter, you still there?”
“Cullen? That you? Yes we’re over here. What is it? Have you found Vincent?”
“Found him, yes. But we need your help. You turned your car around in the parking lot didn’t you? Was that to make a hasty getaway? At any rate since the two ladies left theirs parked facing frontward your car would be best to bundle Vincent into, get him out of here quick smart. Can you get the engine running Peter, the others aren’t far behind me, and we don’t know if the fellow that was holding Vincent will soon come round or not.”
“Come round? Whatever did you do to him, knock him out?” Peter called heading for the outer door.
“Something like that.” He heard Cullen’s reply just before the thud of the door closing again and then Jenny’s cry of “Wait for us, Peter,” followed him out to where they had left the three cars.
That was a hair raising moment in itself, waiting there, hands leaning on the steering wheel glimpsing through the windshield and awaiting the moment when everyone would come dashing from the building. No doubt with Vincent among them, and then wanting to see what he looked like along with hoping she would not, Catherine waited, foot on accelerator pedal hand on gear stick anticipating the moment when her passengers would clamber into her car and Jenny’s and they would speed off after Peter’s car. It all seemed very familiar to Catherine in her line of work, but no fresh time made the personal experience of the past any easier. Heart in her mouth, Catherine almost froze when the sight she had anticipated left her gasping for air and her eyes glued to the strange looking man as he was bundled into the back seat of Peter’s car.
“Go! Go, go, go, go!” Her passengers shouted as with flailing arms they reached out to close the car doors all around the car. “Go, god dammit!” Catherine felt someone tug the gear stick from her hand and shove it into first, “Step on it, woman!” Still the action did nothing and Catherine found herself immobilised until something happened that really got her moving. The familiar ping of a gunshot ricocheting off of the back wing of her car, suddenly had her bursting into action and the tyres squealing as she changed gear from first, to second, third to forth to fifth in a mere sixty seconds her passengers hanging on for dear life as the bends she took tossed them about.
“Where’re we going?” She flung back the question to no one in particular. Her eyes wild, she checked the rear view mirror, conscious of a tailing vehicle and the fact that her passengers were making it difficult to keep them in sight. “Sit down! I can’t see!” Catherine wailed accelerating faster as another bullet made the presence of their pursuers felt.
“Anywhere, just lose them. Thankfully your friend and Peter will get away safe. I don’t think they know there were three cars thanks to the length of time you took to get started.” Someone told her at her side. She did not take her eyes from the road to see who it might be, but guessed from the familiar sarcastic tone that it was the young woman called Jamie.
“You wanna walk!” Catherine screamed as she made the familiar turns that would lead her round the city hoping to shake off her tail, “What happened to thank you Catherine?” She retorted with equal sarcasm.
“She’s right, Jamie.” One of the men spoke from the back, “Without Catherine’s help we would still be looking for Vincent. You should thank her. We all should.” Yet even though he said it, their appreciation was a long time coming.
“What’s the matter with you all? Didn’t your so called precious Vincent teach you gratitude, or that other fellow, what’s his name, Jacob?”
Her questions were met with silence, until finally someone appointed themselves spokesman, “Its not that. Its just, well you have to admit that this all seems pretty far fetched. How can we be sure that you and Vincent’s captor aren’t in on the same plan? Its hard for us to understand that you can feel what Vincent feels, even harder to accept that he led you to him.”
“And you think I understand it any better!” Catherine snapped. “Listen, I didn’t ask for this blasted feeling. It’s almost sent me insane. I just hope that Jenny is right, that now I’ve paid back the debt I will never have this feeling again.”
“What do you mean paid back the debt?” Jamie asked, despite the fact that she told herself she wasn’t interested in anything that Catherine felt, and hopefully after this night they would never have to clap eyes on one another ever again.
Catherine sighed, and checking the mirror for what felt like the thousandth time, replied wearily, “Jenny thinks that now Vincent has rescued me and I have rescued him all will be back to normal. She seems to think that I was destined to be Vincent’s saviour in this, this…capture, that without the connection that we shared he would never have been returned to the tunnels.”
“Well there’s no arguing with that.” Jamie mumbled, and even though she didn’t really want to, she heard herself mumble some thanks.
Catherine neither felt like replying nor intended to speak anymore but as it appeared that they had lost their pursuers, she was compelled to do so. “Look, we had best get out somewhere and leave the car behind. No doubt they took the registration number and since we don’t know who we are dealing with we are still at risk.” As she was speaking those that hadn’t already noticed looked back to see that they were no longer being followed and sighed with relief until they heard her final words when they grew nervous again. “We’re still a long way from the park, so is there anywhere you know where we will be safe?” She asked no one in particular.
“There are ways into the tunnels all over the city. We don’t need to go via the park. Leave your car anywhere round here and follow us. Just be sure to bring all your personal belongings with you, and especially anything that might identify you. We can have someone see you home via a network of tunnels that go beneath Fifth Avenue.”
“I’m sure if they are that resourceful they will soon find out who owns the car. I shall need to stay with you until it is safe for me to go home. Its possible that they have gone ahead of us straight to my apartment anticipating that’s where I will go.”
“Catherine’s right, they are probably awaiting our arrival in the parking lot beneath her apartment building. At least if they are we can play for time. What will you do Catherine, I know you have colleagues who can help, but what will you tell them?”
“I’ll think of something.” Fishing around the car, Catherine made certain she didn’t leave anything personal or of value behind, then locking the vehicle followed the alighted passengers out across the street and toward a block of café’s with a small alley to the side of one of them.
“Be quiet.” Jamie whispered, “This time of night, one never knows…”
“Shh”, one of her companions warned her.
Catherine understood, so near yet so far, how often had she found herself in that predicament? Still with caution and steadfastness the small group made their way into the alley and through the side entrance that would lead them into the tunnels. Soon they were able to breathe easily again knowing that they were entering safe territory but surprising Catherine when they refused her admittance.
“You said you would think of something.” Jamie asked, barring her way, “What will you tell your boss about tonight?”
“Something that he’ll accept without further ado, don’t worry I’ll think of something.” Believing she had answered the question, Catherine tried to enter the tunnels.
“That won’t do. We have to know, you have to tell us what you have in mind.” Jamie’s voice rose and Catherine suddenly detected fear in the young woman’s eyes and understood at once. “Its alright, whatever I decide I would never betray you. Who’d believe me?” She tried to laugh but the sound died on her lips when she saw that Jamie didn’t find it funny.
“Look, I don’t know yet what I will do. Maybe those guys won’t even come looking for me.” They both knew the futility of that hope. Catherine’s car registration was the only lead that they had and they both knew it. “But whatever happens,” Catherine assured Jamie and any who were left listening, “I will never tell anyone about the tunnels, or you and certainly nothing about Vincent.”
Jamie sighed and moved aside allowing Catherine in, “That’s all we wanted to know.” Jamie told her as Catherine moved by adding reluctantly, “Welcome to our world Catherine.”
“Thank you, Jamie. I promise your secret is safe with me and with Jenny it goes without saying.” And for the first time since the two had met a hint of comradeship sprung up between the two women and they actually smiled at one another in passing.
*** *** ***
That was months ago. Since that night Catherine had spent weeks in hiding at the tunnels at night, safely at work during the day with Joe covering her back due to the story she had instigated of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with a drug baron hot on her tail in a case of mistaken identity. After all, her story was acceptable. She told Joe she’d been on surveillance tracking a group of people that her department had been interested in for a long time and when they had come running out of the building and made her drive with a gun to her head, she had obeyed without question. Ordinarily such a tale would have been inconceivable, but after her car had been forensically examined by Gabriel’s mob and they hadn’t even turned up a cat hair, he had been forced, by means of a mediator, to accept her story. He didn’t like it, and he might be forever suspicious, might even have her tailed from time to time, but he accepted it and Catherine started to feel safe again. That was the easy part. The likes of Gabriel were a part of her world and as such relatively easy to deal with. What was difficult was having someone like Vincent in her life, and she wished with every passing moment that she could remember a time when she did not have him there for he filled her every waking moment and matchmaker Jenny wasn’t making it any easier to ignore him either as their many heated discussions verified.
“Face the facts, Cathy,” Jenny launched another attack at the first opportunity on another visit to Catherine’s apartment. “Gabriel won’t entirely give up on you until you fall off the face of the earth, or very deftly slip under it. You simply are not safe while Gabriel lives and breathes in this city.”
“I’ve tackled worse than Gabriel Jen, you should know that.” Catherine told her.
“Worse maybe, but Gabriel is very resourceful and has his fingers in all the pies. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a slice in all the pies and a very big slice at that. You aren’t safe with him on your tail Cathy, however much he seems to have accepted that you had nothing to do with the disappearance of his prize possession. And I for one, will be happier knowing you are below with Vincent. I know he can protect you and would be only too willing to do so.”
“Oh you do, do you?” Catherine asked scornfully, “And what makes you so sure?”
“The way he looks at you.”
Catherine almost choked on her reply, “The way he…what?”
“Seriously, Cathy he adores you. And try as you might you can’t deny that those big soulful eyes have no affect on you. And the colour – wow, have you ever seen eyes so blue. I could drown in them.”
“Be my guest.” Catherine laughed. “Besides if the timing hadn’t been off, it would have been you and he that would have had the connection, and I would never have had a part in any of this.”
“I don’t understand. You told me yourself, it was all to do with timing. My being in the wrong place, a place I might add that you should have been in.”
“Yes, that much is true, but it was never to be he and I. All my dreams attest to the fact that he’s yours through and through, Cathy.”
“All your dreams! What dreams are these?”
“The dreams that show me you and Vincent living happily ever after and very much in love down in the tunnels.”
“No way! Jenny, I have believed most of the things you have told me, seen many of your visions come true, but I will not, do not, will never and I mean it, Jen, so don’t look at me like that… I will not be living happily ever after with some overlarge cat in the bowels of the earth, so you can forget that stupid idea, quick smart!” Catherine thought that her reply brooked no argument so she was surprised when it did.
“You can fight a lot of things Cathy, but you can’t fight destiny. It will get you in the end, so you may as well give up on it now and save the fight.” Jenny sounded so sure of herself that for a moment Catherine almost relented and gave in, until she realised how ridiculous it all was. “Look Jen, I know you mean well, and I know you would like to see Vincent and I romantically involved but it just won’t happen. It can’t. Not only are we vastly different but we come from different worlds and I’m not ready to give the life I lead up for any man, period!”
“Is that why you refused to go out with Joe Maxwell?”
“How did you know about that?” Catherine looked at her friend curiously. She didn’t remember telling her about it, and couldn’t imagine that Joe would. They hardly knew one another.
“The same way I know about most things. But its true isn’t it?”
“Yes its true, so what does it prove?”
“Nothing in itself. It’s the feeling you had when you refused him that is important.” Catherine paled before her friend’s eyes. “You even know about that?” She husked.
“Well not exactly.” Jenny admitted wryly, “I just saw your face in my vision, couldn’t tell what you were thinking, but I surmised. Seems I hit the nail on the head though didn’t I? Deep down inside the reason you gave yourself for refusing Joe, was that you were already involved with someone else.”
“Jenny, you are going to give me a heart attack one day, you know that? You are too astute for your own good.”
“It’s a gift. Just like the gift you share with Vincent.”
“Cathy, you should know by now that I know you better than you know yourself. So, don’t try hiding anything from me. Despite what I assumed that connection still bubbles between you although I get the feeling that you have tried to squash the feeling as best you can.”
“Okay so it is still there. Say you want a sandwich? I haven’t eaten since lunch. How about a glass of wine.”
“Yes to both thank you, and don’t try changing the subject.” Jenny followed Catherine into the kitchen, watching while Catherine prepared the items to make them a snack and continuing to hound her friend relentlessly, until Catherine told her, “Enough already. Honestly Jen, this really is too much, won’t you ever stop?”
Jenny sighed, “Its not that I want to send you ragged over this Cathy, but I’ve had longer to come to terms with it than you have. I know I’m right. You are fighting against the current, on this one Cathy. Whatever you say, whatever Vincent says you two should be together.”
A sandwich half way from her mouth to the plate Catherine almost choked on the first bite, “Whatever Vincent says, that’s a new one. Don’t tell me you’ve had this conversation with him as well?”
Looking guilty, Jenny nodded and hurried forth with, “But I had to do Cathy, don’t you see you two need your heads knocking together. Neither of you can fight what’s meant to be, unfortunately neither of you will see it.”
All ears, Catherine wanted to know everything. “I know that my reasons for not living beneath the city with him are valid, but I fail to see what his problem is with it. He does realise that he’d be getting a wealthy woman as well as beautiful doesn’t he?”
Jenny smirked, she had Catherine by the tail now that was easy to see, and she played it for all she was worth. “Wealth means little to Vincent, and I guess he’s noticed how pretty you are.”
“Pretty!” Catherine wasn’t vain but she well knew her looks went beyond pretty. Jenny appeared not to notice how ruffled the word had left her friend telling her, “Well you are pretty.”
Unable to find a retort that didn’t make her appear rude, Catherine changed tactics, though she knew she would put that one on hold. “So what exactly were his arguments against having me live with him? I take it you know that he feels something for me?”
“Now that would be telling.” Silently Jenny laughed and made a great show of examining her ham and salad sandwich, carefully tucking tomato and lettuce between the two slices of bread before biting into the first half. “Mm, can’t beat granary bread. Did you get this from the deli?”
“Don’t change the subject. As it happens, yes I did, but tell me more about Vincent.”
“What would you like to know? This my wine?” Jenny indicated one of the two glasses Catherine had recently poured and carried to the coffee table positioned between two very dinky sofas.
“Yes. Now spill.”
“Spill? What over your carpet? I hardly think that would be appropriate besides it would waste the wine.”
“Quit stalling, Jen. You know what I meant. Now tell me, what did Vincent say?”
Jenny sighed, “Actually not a lot. He implied much, but said little, you know Vincent one has to read between the lines with much that he says.”
“And that would be what? Come on Jenny, this is like pulling teeth, and I know what you are doing you know. Now that you have my attention, you are extracting every last ounce of retribution that you can. Well okay, you have my full undivided attention. Okay satisfied? Now exactly what did Vincent say? Or more to the point what did Vincent imply?”
“I wish I could play it for all its worth Cathy. Nothing would make me happier, but the thing is, when it comes to you, Vincent is a closed book. Simply he will not face facts nor will he discuss any possibility that he finds you attractive. I think he’s deluding himself, but that’s just my opinion.”
Catherine absorbed her words and said little, but Jenny could see that they had had the required impact, Catherine was thinking, a lot and finally Jenny was not disappointed when Catherine remarked casually, “Then I must be doing something wrong. Hasn’t noticed me has he? We’ll see about that. Didn’t I hear you say that he likes going to the concert beneath the park?”
“I believe I did mention it, yes.” Jenny replied flippantly and casually sipped her wine.
“Mm.” Catherine eyed her friend sceptically, “You should have been an actress, Jen they’d award you an Oscar for some of your performances. Bravo.” Catherine told her friend dryly and though Jenny said nothing, Catherine noticed the small smirk of satisfaction that crossed Jenny’s face. The woman almost gloated.
“Tell you what.” Catherine announced excitedly to get her friend’s full attention, “How about you and I giving Vincent and eyeful one evening?”
“Not sure I like the sound of that Cathy, but go on, I’m all ears.” Jenny laughed. This was sounding like fun no matter how much she disputed the fact.
“We have to make certain Vincent is beneath the concert, and then appear above in all our finest. He’s sure to notice us then.”
“Possibly, but will he be looking up and oh…if he is…oh Cathy!” Jenny’s eyes danced with mischief, “You don’t mean you want him to see straight up your gown do you? Now that would make him notice!” Jenny burst into raucous laughter.
“I do not!” Catherine answered indignantly, “But you have a point there. I hadn’t thought of that. How will he see what we are wearing if his vantage point is beneath us? Unless he is gifted at seeing round corners that won’t work. Do you have any ideas?”
Jenny finished her wine, paused for effect then replied, “Yes as it happens.”
“I thought you might.” Catherine told her with a hint of amusement. “You going to tell me now, or do I have to beat it out of you?” The two women laughed together.
“Its easy. You just spend the evening with him beneath the concert, same place as he listens to it. It stands to reason, he can’t go above, so you have to go below.”
“You mean we have to go below. Like it or not you are tagging along Jen.”
“No, I mean it. I’m serious. I’m not spending an evening alone with him, Jen. You’re going to be there too and that’s final, okay?”
Jenny smiled, her secret, ‘you betcha’, smile leaving Catherine surmising all she liked from it. Jenny had her own ideas, and playing gooseberry wasn’t one of them matchmaker certainly, gooseberry never.
“So when’s the next performance?” Catherine asked reaching for the copy of a newspaper that would give her the answer she sought not knowing that Jenny was happily thinking, ‘well you said I should be an actress, Cathy and I’m about to play my best performance yet, you see if I don’t.’ Inside she laughed, Catherine and Vincent wouldn’t know what hit them, not if she had anything to do with it. And she aimed to see that she had everything to do with it, come what may.
*** *** ***
However, setting them up wasn’t going to be easy. Never a good liar Jenny was even more nervous than normal knowing she would have to lie to Vincent. Being who he was she felt a heal lying to him and being that he had advanced visions as did she, it was hard to know if he might have seen her coming and know what to expect through one of his dreams.
Therefore, Jenny licked her lips a good half dozen times before entering Vincent’s chamber one afternoon when she knew Catherine would be hard at work above and finally grasping a cloak of courage around her she stepped into the dim interior beyond.
“Vincent, may I come in?” She asked the customary request, resolutely forcing the dancing butterflies out of her stomach as he looked up from his desk where he had been writing in his journal. His face lit up when he saw her, the two had become good friends in the time they had known one another. They shared a common bond unlike the one he shared with Catherine, but nevertheless a thread with a gift that both of them understood.
“Jenny, yes come in. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Vincent stood ever the gentleman and pulled a seat around for her so that she might gain easy access in the cluttered room.
“It never fails to amaze me Vincent, what you have in here, it’s like Aladdin’s cave I could spend hours here quite happily browsing. That’s if you didn’t mind?” Her eyebrows rose wondering if he might be offended. However he understood and smiled, “Any time that you wish, come browse at your leisure and if you would like a guided tour I would only be too happy to be of assistance.”
“Thank you Vincent. I might hold you to that, but not today. I’m rather pushed for time this afternoon. However, I had to come to ask a favour of you.”
Inclining his head Vincent waited, ‘what possible favour could Jenny be seeking from him?’ A flutter of excitement started up within, as Jenny’s butterflies became his.
“You mentioned that you like to listen to the concert from your own special place below, and I wondered if you would take me with you when you next went along there.” To her horror, the last few words were uttered with a tremor. Jenny had thought this far and a little beyond in her planning, but suddenly she wondered if he might get the wrong impression. Supposing he thought that she was throwing herself at him? Thus a blush that started at her throat and turned her cheeks to crimson further embarrassed Jenny as she awaited his answer and hoped he hadn’t noticed anything amiss.
He had. For a long time he looked at her trying to see beyond what was actually presented. Above the concert was always built away from the wind, and when rain was expected a canopy was erected. Above among her friends and colleagues Jenny would find more comfort listening to the concert than she would below on damp cushions with only him for company. So, her request had only one reason, she wanted to be with him. Nervously, Vincent fingered the pages of his journal wondering how to answer, but Jenny beat him to it. “You can say no if you wish. Or perhaps you would like some time to think about it?”
“No, it’s not that.” Vincent began reluctant to say what was really on his mind. There had been times in the past when he had known some woman wished to be romantically involved with him, but this had never been one of them. He had not known Jenny felt that way toward him and was dismayed that he had missed the signs but then he had been otherwise preoccupied by thinking about her friend, Catherine.
That thought gave him his answer, “Will Catherine be coming along with you?”
With relief Jenny nodded enthusiastically, Catherine of course! “Yes she will, we talked about it only yesterday.”
It still didn’t make sense. Both would have a better time listening to the concert above, why should they need to spend it below with him? Would he be more at risk with two women than one? What had they got planned for him? Something was not right, and by the look of hope on Jenny’s face Vincent was sure that there was more to her request than met the eye. He had an idea.
“I promised to take some of the younger children with me when I next go, so if you wouldn't mind baby sitting, I'd appreciate your help. I’m sure they will fall asleep before the concert is half done, I had deliberated on how many to take, but if you and Catherine were with me, I could invite three so we could each carry a child back to their parents when the concert is over. What do you say?”
It wasn’t what Jenny had hoped for, but she was also well aware that the children would fall asleep during the concert and if it was all they would get then…”Yes that would be great!” Jenny hoped she sounded more enthusiastic than she felt. Babysitting children was not one of her finer points. Neither come to that was attending the concert from a lower level and suddenly she remembered that she hadn’t even planned on actually attending. Now though having promised to carry one of the children she felt obliged to turn up so she asked, “Will you be attending the concert on Thursday night?” Two days away.
“I can do. If that’s convenient for you and Catherine, I will make the arrangements with the families of the children and if you and Catherine call here for me at seven o’clock I will show you the way to my secret place beneath the bandstand. It’s not easy to find by oneself though once you know where it is you will find it easier to go straight there than have to come right into the main hub which will save you time. Will you have finished work by seven?”
“Its possible I can rearrange my diary, as I’m sure Catherine will too. Thank you Vincent, I’m looking forward to Thursday night. I have to go now, thank you for your time.”
“And thank you for your visit. You are always welcome here and when Catherine deems it safe to return home I’d like to know that you will encourage her to visit from time to time.”
Without thinking Jenny almost blew everything as she replied, “I expect you find it a pleasure and a pain having Catherine stay here at night don’t you?” She gasped, “Oh I’m sorry I didn’t mean that the way it sounded, Vincent.”
He didn’t reply unsure all the more what she actually did mean and by his silence Jenny tried to explain, “I mean its probably wonderful having her company while she spends her nights here, that is when you are both awake and playing chess or reading, or…” Jenny found herself speaking faster and faster as her embarrassment increased until finally Vincent lay a hand over hers and told her, “Its alright Jenny, don’t worry, I understand. At least…” He paused and she could see a hint of a smile that warmed her through.
“At least what?” She had to know.
“At least I understand what you say about the pleasure, Catherine is good company and the children adore her.”
‘As do you’ Jenny muttered under her breath.
“And she is beginning to spend the odd evening above now. Joe Maxwell apparently believes that wherever her safe house is, he would be able to keep a better eye on her if she were at her apartment. After all she is eighteen floors above street level and he can provide all the security that she will need.”
“Yes I know, she told me. Hence the reason she stayed above last night. I think she will spend a lot more time above now and less below, though she will never forget you or your kindness…Vincent?” Jenny thought of a burning question she needed an answer to.
“Will you miss her?”
“I miss everyone that comes and goes in the tunnels for a time, as we all do. Each new face brings with it its own pleasures and there is a certain amount of pain when they leave. Oh is that what you meant by the pain?”
For a moment Jenny didn’t understand and when she did she thought, ‘well possibly’ but told him, “Not exactly. Naturally you will miss Catherine, but she and I are not someone that has wandered down here for whatever reason and will leave and not look back. We do plan to visit, therefore the pain you spoke of will not necessarily arise at her parting. So no, that’s not entirely what I meant. I was thinking more along the lines of how it must be painful for you to have her here, when she is here, so near yet so far.” There she had said it in a roundabout way, now it was up to him to deny it. Jenny waited, breath held wondering by his silence if she had taken him too far.
“I should have known, one such as you, would see beyond what appears as innocent to anyone else.” When he spoke, Vincent seemed to look beyond her, over her shoulder and far away. “And you have told me before, though not in so many words that Catherine and I are destined to be together, but still I cannot accept it Jenny. We are too different, and Catherine is…so beautiful…and whatever you say, whatever your dreams tell you…for once they are wrong. You have allowed romantic notions to stand in the way. Such things can never be, Jenny.”
She heard the sadness in his voice, and before he hid his face from her beneath a glossy curtain of amber hair Jenny caught the barest hint of tears welling in those beautiful lagoon eyes and she knew how deeply she had touched him, and how strongly he wished that she was right. Reaching a hand across the table she grasped one of his and squeezed tightly, “It will happen, Vincent don’t give up. My visions are never wrong. And you too, are beautiful, you know?”
Without lifting his gaze from her she saw him shake his head in disbelief and was stunned by the outburst that followed, “You are Vincent! You are beautiful. In your own way, and Catherine would be a fool if she didn’t recognise that fact!”
Blue eyes were drawn to meet hers in challenge, seconds ticked by as they stared at one another neither speaking until finally Vincent shook his head again and lowered his gaze from hers, “I would like to believe…” he began but stopped when he thought better of admitting anything, but it was enough for Jenny. Those words had borne such hope that she snatched up on them straight away. “Believe me Vincent. My visions have never been wrong. I could set the future by them. And your future has been mapped out and it is entwined with Catherine’s. Say what you like, do what you must, but know that in the end destiny’s child will reel you both in to be together. I don’t know why or how it has to be so, but it just is. And that night Catherine rescued you from that building repaid the debt of you rescuing her from the park, but still your souls are linked. The connection you had with her remains does it not?"
Reluctantly, Vincent nodded.
“Then surely that speaks volumes Vincent? I bet if I asked you could take me straight to wherever Catherine is now. Why should you be able to do that if she isn’t meant to be anything to you?”
“It is a question I have asked myself a dozen times…” Vincent whispered rising his head slightly to meet her eyes.
“Vincent, honey.” Jenny squeezed his hand affectionately, “I came here today with a ruse to ask you to accompany me to the concert from your special place, I confess I had no intention of turning up on Thursday night.” He looked surprised and waited for her to continue wondering why she had lied to him and for what reason.
“I hate lying Vincent, it rubs my conscience, and forgive me for having done so tonight. The truth is, last evening Catherine and I were discussing you, and I talked her into spending an evening with you in your special place beneath the bandstand to listen to a concert there, but she would only attend if I went also. I promised I would come, but I had no intention of doing so. Oh I would have gone if I found that the evening bore weightily on my mind, but I would have tried to have found something to occupy my mind that day to such a degree that I could forget about the concert, or at least forget about the time until it was too late to go. And why would I do something so devious? Simply put I am working along with my visions that you and Catherine are destined to be together and fight it all the both of you like, you are only fighting against the current. I see a happy ever after for you and Catherine Vincent, and both of you have got to believe it. As I say, my visions are never wrong!”
“There are no buts. Believe it Vincent, let it happen in its own time, and stop putting up obstacles where there are enough already. This Thursday evening, be it with the children as chaperons or not, you and Catherine are going to spend the evening beneath the concert in one another’s company and together you are going to draw some conclusions and…”
“No refusals allowed, Vincent, Jenny has spoken. Why are you grinning like that?” She chuckled feeling relieved that his sombre expression of moments ago had been replaced by one of merriment.
“I’ll meet her, spend the evening with her, but not beneath the concert. It is too secluded, and too small. We would have to be in close proximity to one another, something that even I realise would not be acceptable for a first date.” Jenny gasped and with a twinkle in his eye Vincent went on, “I know you have been here this afternoon longer than intended already, but if you would wait a while longer, I should like to write out an invitation for you to take to Catherine. I will also extend the same to you, but whether or not you can make the appointment we will have to wait and see.” He winked and she understood at once. “I shall have to check my diary. When do you intend the date to be?”
“Is Catherine free this evening?”
“As far as I know,” Jenny grimaced, “Drat, but I’m not.” She winked back.
He understood and she knew it but went on as if he had not, “Then I shall expect you both here at my chamber at seven. Wear something warm, we shall be spending the evening picnicking at the falls.”
“Mm sounds cosy, will you be taking along a thick woollen blanket?”
“I could do.” He chuckled.
“I think you should, you could always use it to sit on.” Jenny remarked casually. Her heart was racing. Both knew exactly what they were doing, and both knew that with a bit of luck, only Catherine would be spending the evening with him.
The invitations written, Jenny held them in one hand as she stood at the chamber entrance with Vincent and was compelled to reach up and brush a kiss across one cheek before leaving, “I wish you all the best for this evening Vincent. Don’t worry I will let Catherine believe that I will be there, we will come along separately, however…” She grimaced wryly, “I think I may be delayed…”
Chuckling Vincent bid her farewell, “Thank you Jenny. So I’ll see you when you do finally arrive then?”
“You can bet on it.” Her laughter forced the same from him and shaking his head he watched her go until she disappeared around a corner, and then he began to have doubts about the deception they had planned.
*** *** ***
When Catherine received her invitation she was doubtful about going. She’s lived down in the tunnels three months already, and during that time there had been boring occasions when an invite like this would have been something to look forward to, but now she was living back above she had better things to do.
“I don’t know Jen.” She voiced her reservations, "I mean the concert would have been fine, but going along for a picnic, what’s so special in that? And its not like I haven’t already visited the falls, is it?”
“Oh come on Cathy, stop being such a wet blanket.” The mention of a blanket made Jenny smile causing Catherine to wonder at the merriment that appearred so suddenly in her friend’s eyes. “Okay then, lets have it. What have you cooked up for me this time?”
“Nothing.” Jenny spoke too quickly and Catherine did not believe her, “Did you ask him about the concert?”
“Yes I did, and he’s taking some children along, we couldn’t have done what we’d planned, and then he suggested this picnic tonight instead.”
“Why? Did you make him suspicious about the concert?”
“No.” Jenny averted her gaze as she replied hoping Catherine would not notice how deceptive she was being. “I think he just decided to pacify us with another night out since we could not go along on Thursday night. His secret spot isn’t all that large and it would be filled with him and the children, little room for us.” Now Catherine understood, “Oh I see, so this evening's picnic is his way of making up for Thursday night?”
“Yes, I think he felt bad about not being able to have us there on Thursday evening.” Jenny chided herself to shut up and not give more information than necessary, otherwise she would be adding to the deception and she felt bad enough about that already.
“What time will you be leaving? I thought you said you’d be really busy this evening?”
“I’ll manage it. I can always catch up when we get home, I doubt we’ll be late, it’ll be chilly by the falls, although Vincent said he will bring a blanket.”
“Oh he did, did he?” Catherine liked the sound of that, giving Jenny the feeling that she wasn’t certain who was fooling whom.
“He also said we should wear something warm.” Jenny noted the sudden look of cunning that passed over Catherine’s face before it was replaced with one of glee, “So let me get this right, if I should wear something a little unsuitable and he has taken a blanket, he will be compelled to wrap me in it and keep me warm will he not? That should sufficiently rile him.” Catherine giggled again leaving Jenny to wonder about the game she was playing. For someone that wasn’t interested she was acting awfully like one that was in a subtle kind of way.
“I feel I should know, Cathy, but exactly what game are you playing here? I thought the idea was to have him notice how beautiful you are?”
“Oh he’ll notice me alright! What do you think to this?” Catherine asked before dragging her friend to the bedroom closet and from it withdrawing a slinky little number in emerald green. “Do you think he’d be a sucker for silk? Most men are, and it rather enhances my eyes does it not, and my hair, what do you think?” With the garment held to her chest Catherine danced around the room, swirling this way and that allowing the fabric to glide softly against her legs and fall away without the slightest hint of a sound.
“I think he’ll be lost for words, Cathy.” Jenny was sure of that. Catherine would look gorgeous in such a gown but then she looked gorgeous in anything. “However you might evoke some choice words from him when he recovers enough. That hardly constitutes being something warm, and what if he forgets the blanket, are you prepared to be enfolded in his arms to keep out the chill?”
Catherine hadn’t thought of that and was quiet for a moment, until she announced, “That’s easy, I’ll take one of my own.”
“I don’t like it Cathy. This isn’t like you. You’re flaunting yourself, and you told me you weren’t interested. You don’t need to push Vincent over the edge, I’m sure he already knows how beautiful you are.”
“Do you? Has he said something?” Catherine asked hopefully.
Unable to speak, Jenny deemed shaking her head wouldn’t constitute an outright lie, but she followed through with, “Just wear jeans and a sweater Cathy, you wouldn’t want him to think you are stupid would you? Besides have you thought about footwear? You can hardly wear backless sandals or high heels at the falls and you know it, and I hardly think trainers or boots would enhance the effect of that gown.” Jenny snorted derisively as she pictured that in her mind’s eye.
“I guess you’re right. Okay I’ll take a rain check on the gown, he can see it some other night, don’t know when but I’ll work on it.”
“Maybe you can invite him up here. I know he’d have to be careful, but I also know that Gabriel has not stopped Vincent's jaunts up to the park, so if he can go that far, you don’t live much further beyond that realm, I’m sure we could smuggle him up here somehow.”
“I’ll think about that, in the meantime, jeans and sweater you say. How about these?” She held up a pair of stunning white jeans and a white chunky knit sweater embroidered in satin with pink and red roses.”
“You’ll look like an angel.” Jenny told her and Catherine dismissed the choice at once.
“Then that’s not the right combination. What about the blue jeans instead?” She held them together with the sweater, and Jenny knew that emerald gown or not, Catherine would still look ravishing in her newly selected garments. Vincent wouldn’t know what hit him.
“Perfect.” She told her friend.
“Then these it is. What will you be wearing?”
“Oh something dowdy no doubt, don’t want to be in competition do we?”
Catherine laughed, “You know Jen, I’m actually looking forward to this evening, talking of which we have two hours to get ready, hadn’t you better be going home, or you’ll be late.”
“Vincent expects that, I told him I might be delayed but that you would likely be on time. I’ll see you down there, Cathy. Don’t wait for me.”
In her excitement for the evening ahead Catherine missed the tremor that sounded in Jenny’s reply, and she would not have worried if she had noticed. After all Jenny never lied so for what reason would she start doing so now. “Okay Jen, see you down there, in fact if you could be delayed about an hour…well you know what I mean?” Catherine winked and Jenny sighed with relief. Unwittingly, Catherine had just given her the perfect excuse for not turning up at all. “The floor’s all yours, my friend.” She replied as she headed out of the door, “Just be certain that you make the most of it.”
“Oh I will, Jen, I will.” The sound of Catherine’s laughter followed her friend out, however, the stage had been set, now all that was left was for the characters to play their part to perfection and then Jenny would have the last laugh.
*** *** ***
Two hours later when Catherine arrived at the home chambers Vincent was waiting for her and had already decided just how far to take the evening. Reminding himself that Catherine was no different to the other members of his community he took up her hand in his and with a picnic basket prepared by William over his other arm, the pair set off toward the falls. He remained somewhat sceptical about Jenny’s insistence that Catherine and he were inextricably linked somehow, but he had accepted its possibilities since his own dreams had attested to a similar fact ever since Catherine had entered his life. Not only that but a few visits to Narcissa the witchy woman of the tunnels as Father fondly called her had also seen a future for him with Catherine.
With her hand in his, Vincent said little, and unable to look down at her afraid for what he might see, they finally reached the falls and climbed up to the ledge where a prior visit had brought several blankets and cushions to lie upon.
“You sit here, Catherine. I expect Jenny will be delayed and someone will escort her when she arrives. Can I pour you some wine?”
“Yes, that would be lovely.” Catherine smiled. All nervousness of this man had been dispelled long ago she was at ease with him and looked around her with awe. “This place never fails to thrill me Vincent, to think that above they believe Niagara to be our closest falls when there is this one right below them, amazing!”
“Our world has some beautiful treasures you have yet to see, Catherine. One day I should like to take you and Jenny to see the crystal cavern. It is quite a walk though, you would both need to take at least two days off from work.”
“Then a weekend would do it!” Catherine exclaimed.
“Ordinarily yes, but I fear that after all that walking the pair of you would want the weekend to recover.” He chuckled and Catherine did too, thus they fell easy with one another as they sat side by side sipping their wine.
“Tell me about your world Vincent? Suddenly I feel that I do not know it as well as I thought.”
“There is so much to tell, it would take all evening, however should I just tell you about the places that I favour?”
Catherine smiled and nodded, “Yes, please do.”
It took quite a while to tell Catherine of all the places Vincent cherished and his reasons for doing so, and soon an hour had passed. Catherine’s eyes were dancing as Vincent brought to life the places she had never seen and the tales of his exploits around them with his brother Devin, whom she had never met. “You’re brother sounds like the sort of match Jenny would be interested in, talking of which…” Catherine glanced back to the area where they had entered to sit by the falls, “I wonder what’s keeping her?” While inside she told herself, ‘way to go, Jen.’
“I’m sure she will come if she is able.” Vincent remarked casually, “More wine, Catherine?”
“Yes, thank you. And I must say these cookies are fabulous, please tell William for me. You know he would have no trouble getting a job in a bakery up top. He’d be snapped up the moment they sampled his cookies. Does he have a secret recipe?”
Vincent chuckled, “He says it’s all to do with the draughts down here. Just the right amount of air to make his pastries rise.”
Catherine laughed, “Is that what it is, well he’s certainly got plenty of those.” And as if to prove her point she shivered.
“A little, but I don’t want to leave here just yet.”
“We don’t have to leave.” Her eyes caught his as he shuffled behind her to extract a blanket from a pile he had left there earlier and their gazes locked for a moment. So close, Catherine was certain he could hear her heart beating rapidly in expectation, and then fleetingly wondered what it was she expected from him. The look in his eyes was filled with a myriad of expressions difficult to grasp, but for a certainty she saw a flash of hope, a flare of desire. The latter sent her blood thundering through her veins at an alarming rate, and he was almost lost when he saw his name tremble off her lips.
“Catherine.” He whispered, his lips inches from hers. His heart pounded, it would take minimum effort to close the gap that separated them but did she want it? Though they had spent an enjoyable evening together, though they had laughed and responded to one another warmly a kiss might just go beyond the boundaries he had set for himself that evening, however as he hesitated Catherine shifted, moving forward to close the inch or two that separated their mouths and brushed her lips with his and Vincent was lost. His arms came around her and he enfolded her close, slanting his mouth to hers capturing her lips in love’s first kiss and felt her compliant and warm in his embrace. His world spun, never had he tasted anything so delectable, he wanted more and thrust his tongue deep into her honeyed depths eager to taste her further. Never had Catherine been so roused so quickly by a mere kiss and she delved into his open mouth with a tongue warm and seeking, thus their mouths danced in a rhapsody of fire until even that was not nearly enough. “Vincent…” Catherine moaned his name into his mouth pulling him closer quickly losing sight of her senses. Where they were they could so easily be seen, here was not the place for what she had in mind, as suddenly she realised Jenny had been right, Vincent was the man for her. A little strange, a little different true, but nothing could prevent the knowledge forming that Jenny had been right, she and Vincent were destined to be together.
“Catherine…we should stop.” He husked against her throat only just managing seconds before to pull his lips from hers.
“I don’t want to stop.” Catherine told him and felt him shudder, “We can’t hold back the tide Vincent, you know this is meant to be.”
“Yes.” He buried his face in her hair inhaling the scent of roses before seeking the delicious honey of her lips again and taking her onto another journey where the world spiralled away.
“Oh God, Vincent…” Her needs were growing and through the bond that they shared he matched her stroke for stroke, never had he felt like this before, never had he been so powerless to resist.
“If you are sure?” He whispered needing to know her answer more than anything.
“Yes, I’m sure.” Suddenly the need for him was almost too colossal to bear and she whimpered with joy when he managed to stand and pull her up with him, lifting her effortless in his arms intent on carrying her to some other secret place he knew of…when…a cheery greeting sounded from below.
“Catherine? Vincent? Are you still here?” Immediately both recognised Jenny’s voice and she would forever after kick herself that she had decided to put in an appearance after all for vanities sake. Vincent let go of Catherine, and she fell crooked at his feet managing to right herself without too much trouble in time to meet Jenny climbing up the steps leading to the ledge. “Hey you don’t have to both stand on my account.” Jenny arrived a little puffed, “Or were you just leaving?”
The glance that passed between the couple worried Jenny, as she looked up at them from where she had sat down on the blanket at their feet, and wondered if she had disturbed something, but in no way thought it had been something like that! “Oh you two haven’t argued have you? Look come and tell Auntie Jenny all about it, maybe I can help iron the problem out.”
Catherine started to sit down next to her friend, but Vincent they noticed remained aloof. By the set look on his face Jenny could not tell what his problem was, but it worried Catherine. He looked furious, or maybe just frustrated. She knew that feeling and was furious with Jenny for turning up when she had. “I think we should go, Jen.”
“Go? But I’ve only just arrived and I’m starving.” She bit into one of William’s delectable cookies, “Mm, I’ve waited all evening for this.” The atmosphere around her was brittle but she failed to notice and that was unusual for Jenny, ordinarily she would have picked up on it straight away. “Say are you two finished here, there’s tons left?”
“Take the basket home with you.” Vincent announced before striding away from the two women causing Jenny’s mouth to drop open in astonishment. He sounded almost hostile and it amazed her to see Catherine get up and run after him calling, “Vincent, wait!”
From her vantage point Jenny could see the couple talking heatedly, but the sound of the falls obliterated their words so she did not know that they discussed what had just taken place between them.
“Jenny’s timing was perfect, Catherine. To think what we almost did!” His blue eyes were pained, “I’m sorry Catherine but I think it’s best if we didn’t see one another again.”
“No, Vincent…please…When I get Jenny to myself I shall give her a piece of my mind…of all the stupid moments to turn up…and she says she can see things in advance…well she didn’t see this one coming…”
“Exactly. And that she didn’t means it was wrong, out of balance, out of time. I was fooled into believing that her visions about the two of us signified that we should be together, but Catherine it would be wrong…we are too different…I am what I am and you are so beautiful…I hate myself for what I contemplated doing with you. Things I have never done with another soul let alone ever considered.”
“I suppose I should be honoured then.” Catherine smiled, but Vincent would not be drawn in, he just stared down at her until he saw the the light of love in her eyes and had to look away. “Oh Vincent, don’t be sorry, what we did, what we started was beautiful. And though I confess my reasons for coming here tonight was not strictly honourable what happened between us when it came was not abhorrent to me. God Vincent you set my soul aflame. I’ve never been kissed like that in my life!”
He almost relented at the sincerity in her eyes, but managed to remain steadfast when he announced, “I’m going back to my chamber now Catherine. I will see you and Jenny back to the main hub and have someone escort you out of the tunnels, but please know this, I do not want to see you again. What we have between us is far too dangerous and I could hurt you badly. I’m sorry, you don’t know how sorry, but it has to be this way.”
She would have argued but Catherine could see it would have been useless. His mind was made up, but then so was hers. What they had started that evening was the beginning of their future, the one that Jenny had seen for them and nothing he said would make her forget about it. She’d give it a few days and then she would visit and she would wear him down but by bit until he accepted that they were meant to be together. For after the evening she had spent with him Catherine knew that she never wanted to be anywhere else but by his side. She was his and he was hers forever.
*** *** ***
Jenny was distraught when she discovered what she had interrupted, “Oh Cathy, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I did that!” She watched her friend pace the living room for the hundredth time happy to see that at least the ranting had stopped when finally Catherine flopped herself wearily onto one of her sofas.
“I’m only sorry that I didn’t believe you, Jen. Oh God when I think of his lips on mine…honestly Jen, I’ve never been kissed like that in all my life. And want him so…oh Jen, I wanted him so much I want him still, I ache for him. Oh Jen, what am I to do? He refuses to see me again. Come on you who have all the answers speak to me.”
Jenny shook her head, “All I know is that it will come right in the end. I can see it Cathy, you and Vincent and there is a child. I know it could be any child, but that he looks like Vincent makes me conclude that he is your child, the one you created between you. Cathy, I’m sorry for what I did, but maybe that was meant to be too, maybe had he of taken you somewhere he might never have forgiven himself, perhaps you aren’t to have a child out of wedlock, maybe that’s what the problem is. Maybe you both moved a little too fast. Who instigated the first kiss anyway?”
“What’s that got to do with it?” Catherine asked, then seeing the firm set of Jenny’s jaw, announced, “As it happens I did. Mind you I was sure he was contemplating it, but I actually took advantage of the situation. Why don't you think I should have done?”
“Well, in my visions it is always Vincent that makes the decision to further your relationship. Perhaps that he didn’t, means that you changed the course of the future and his emotions. I still think all will end well, but I also think we might have to face some obstacles along the way. Especially since he is aware of the facts and will be expecting something from us. We should play it cool Cathy. Give him a break, let absence make the heart grow fonder and all that. Perhaps with any luck he will miss you.”
“And perhaps it will be out of sight out of mind, have you thought of that?”
“I don’t think you will ever be out of his mind Cathy. Vincent well knows that your future and his are entwined, he just doesn’t want to see it right now. Maybe I should tell him some of the things I told you, you know about the child, maybe then he will believe.”
“And maybe not! Jen, one of the things I did learn about Vincent tonight was that he was glad that there will never be another like him and that he has no desire to pass on his genes and create a child in his image. If he knows what your visions foretell, I think he will do his utmost to defy them.”
“How do you feel about that? Having a child like him I mean?”
“Do you really need to ask? Jenny, I may have been slow accepting what you knew all along, but Vincent is beautiful. I would love a child like him, in fact more than one.”
“Well believe me you don’t have to worry on that score. The future is set, and you will have a child that looks like his father. The thing now is knowing what to do to fill in the gap, or do we simply do nothing? What do you say…should we intervene in the future or stay back and let it happen in its own time?”
“If you had experienced the things I had with Vincent there is no way you would contemplate waiting, however, I think there may be wisdom in that. In fact I think we have instigated a little too much already. The timing is wrong, Jen, I feel it in my bones. Something will happen but in its own time. I think we ought to just get on with our lives as we know it and let things take their natural course. I also think I should do as Vincent says and stay away from him in the meantime. He’s aware of the facts Jen, he’s not stupid and when the time is right it will happen and then nothing will stop us.” Catherine looked directly at Jenny when she said the last causing her friend to blush hotly, “As I said before, Cathy, I can’t apologise enough. I’m real sorry.”
“Don’t be Jen, now wasn’t the time. However at least now I know that when it is, I won’t hesitate to accept it, I love him Jen, I love Vincent. And I will wait forever if I have to and the wait will be worth it, believe me.”
Her words made Jenny feel all soft and gooey inside. She wanted to hug herself. “Okay then we’ll do nothing and let nature take its course, or in this case let destiny take its course, it won’t be easy but we’ll sit it out. Who knows, it’ll be Halloween again in a few months time, maybe that’s when destiny will strike again.”
Catherine nodded, it was possible that Jenny that was right, a year to the day since they’d met? Yes, she liked the sound of that and something told her thats how it would be.
*** *** ***
Still when the invitation arrived on the eve of Halloween, Catherine was surprised. The idea of something happening had remained constantly with her, but she had supposed that she would be out in the park after dark and she and Vincent would bump into one another and something would occur then, even though walking the park after dark on Halloween was not something she relished. So when she arrived home the night before with her Halloween costume tucked under her arm, and scooped the invitation off of the floor where it had been pushed beneath her door, Catherine was surprised to find it was from Vincent. And even more surprised to read the note within, “Now is the time. Catherine please meet me in the park tomorrow at four o’clock pm.”
That early? Catherine was surprised, surely he was wrong. It would still be reasonably light, and people would be about. People dressed for Halloween…and then she understood, of course no one would look twice at him believing him to be in costume too…a ripple of excitement ran through Catherine. She’d be there and she was sure he would appreciate her costume too.
*** *** ***
He was there waiting, not as she supposed in the confines of the storm drain but just outside of it, his amber hair gleaming in the dying autumn sun, taking her breath away. Never had his eyes looked so blue, never had he looked so striking, so beautiful, so handsome. His eyes when they looked down at her held a hint of something intangible, elusive, and his voice when he suddenly decided to pay her dress a compliment thrilled her to the core. “You look simply beautiful, Catherine. Thank you for coming.” His eyes never left hers, except maybe to flutter just the once to her lips, causing a ripple of excitement to race through her veins.
The costume she had chosen came complete with a mask, feathered and stunning, set to look like an owl, but she refrained from pulling it down over her face, keeping it instead upon her forehead. Therefore when he reached out to tug it down and his hand brushed her skin in passing Catherine shuddered and wondered about the small smile that her actions caused to play around his lips. Then with one hand to her back, he suggested that they walk the length and the breadth of the park together.
Catherine was quiet throughout most of that journey, his presence overwhelming her entirely acutely aware of the hand placed upon her back still, comforting, intimate until finally unable to withstand it any longer Catherine turned to face him beneath the shadow of a wall covered with ivy. There she told him sincerely, “I love you Vincent.”
He gasped, the indrawn breath held tight before a slow and painful release, his eyes never leaving hers. “You love me?” Catherine nodded at his whispered response, her eyes luminous her lips quivering, just begging to be kissed. He did not disappoint her, “Oh Catherine…” bringing his lips to hers Catherine thought she might faint when she felt the first touch of his mouth on hers. The world spiralled away from before her, leaving nothing but him and her together.
After a long time they drew reluctantly apart, and Vincent, she could see was trembling. Catherine hugged him close needing to be near again, never wanting to be apart from him again. “Would you like to come up to my apartment?” She asked him timidly.
He hadn’t thought of that, but the idea was sound, “Yes, I’d like that. Thank you.” They turned and walked arm in arm toward the street, not even worrying about the likes of Gabriel, feeling certain that on a night like this, he simply would not spoil what destiny had mapped for them.
They were right, they did not yet know it, but Gabriel had met his own demise several weeks earlier. He would never bother them again. They were safe.
“Come in.” It felt strange bringing Vincent to her home, even stranger to him that he had taken the elevator and stepped into her apartment as though it were an every day occurrence. Still it did not feel right, this was not his home, and he hoped that for a limited time only now it would continue to be hers.
“I have something to ask you.” Vincent told Catherine as she closed the door, and to his delight started lighting candles set in pumpkins all around the room, before switching off the overhead lights that hurt his eyes.
“What is it? Would you like to sit down?”
“Can we go outside onto the balcony?”
“Of course. I’m sure you will enjoy the view. Though I have a feeling it will not be new to you. Father has told me about your rooftop vigils and I should think eighteen floors up will be tame to you.”
Vincent chuckled, reaching her side and the hand she extended into his as they stepped together onto the balcony.
“So what is it you wish to ask me?” In close proximity to him Catherine’s heart thundered in her chest. A need was creeping through her veins and she didn’t think she could stand it for much longer. He was gorgeous and she wanted to let him know it.
“Firstly, your friend Jenny seems to believe that we have a future together.” He told her softly.
“Yes, and we can’t escape it even if we wanted, Jenny is never wrong.” Catherine chuckled letting him see that she was happy with her friend’s vision.
“Narcissa is the same. Father told you of her did he not?” Catherine nodded surprised nonetheless that another had seen the two of them together in such a way. Catherine wondered if Narcissa knew about the child.
“Narcissa seems to think that we will have a child together.” Catherine gasped. “And how do you view that, Vincent…you told me that…”
“That I would not want a child in my image? Yes I know, but we cannot fight destiny, my love. What will be, will be.” Again Catherine gasped and then because she felt compelled to say so told him, “I love you so much, Vincent.”
His eyes softened at her omission and he held her close, whispering in her ear, “I love you too, Catherine.” Before pulling back and searching her eyes hoping to find acceptance there. When he did, he leaned in to take her lips beneath his and the fire cracked and blazed in both their veins until Vincent had to resolutely force himself back from her arms before he was lost to his emotions.
“Catherine…will you marry me.”
“Oh.” Her heart thudded painfully beneath her breast. She had not expected this, but then…”Yes, oh yes! Vincent, I will marry you.” She had not needed time to find an answer it was there spontaneously, and she would love to be his wife.
Smiling down at her, Vincent released the breath he had been holding drawing a chuckle from her, “thought I would refuse you, huh?” She smiled and kissed his lips, “Not a chance my love.” Vincent chuckled.
“I can’t believe this is happening to me Catherine. Are you sure you are so beautiful…and I’m…”
“So beautiful.” Catherine finished for him and at the shake of his head reiterated, “Yes you are. You are beautiful, to me, to others that know you. God Vincent I adore you.”
He chuckled meekly, as if he didn’t believe but was grateful for the praise nonetheless. “I have something for you, from my world. From the crystal cavern, remember I mentioned it to you?”
Catherine nodded and watched mesmerised as from the folds of his cloak he took a box, opened it and produced a ring set with solitaire crystal and taking up the third finger of her left hand slipped it on. “Now we are engaged.” She told him with a smile, Vincent nodded, “Yes my Catherine, now we are engaged. And I’d like very much if you would come below with me now to announce our intention to marry to my family.”
“I’m so happy Vincent, and of course I’ll come below, but there is one thing I must do first, do you mind, but I have to ring Jenny?”
Vincent smiled, “Of course you do.” Understanding at once he let go of his truelove long enough for her to make the call to Jenny’s cell phone.
“Hi Catherine, I thought you were going out this evening? I've just arrived at that resturant I told you about.”
“Have you? Well I did go out and I will do again but right now, Vincent is here.”
“At your apartment! Cathy, have you and he been…well you know?” In her minds eye Catherine imagined Jenny’s blush.
“No, something better.”
“Something better? Better than that! What?”
“I’ll let Vincent tell you.” Passing the receptacle to her truelove, Catherine bid him tell Jenny of their news.
“Yes, Vincent, hi. What’s going on?” Jenny knew something wonderful was happening and she held her breath in anticipation.
“I’ve asked Catherine to marry me and she has agreed.” He withdrew the receiver from his ear as Jenny’s whoop of delight almost deafened him.
“Vincent, you still there?”
Placing it back to his ear, Vincent confirmed, “Yes, should I take it that you approve?” Catherine giggled at the look on his face, it was so smug.
“Approve? Vincent! Its wonderful…oh, Vincent, congratulations… whatever changed your mind?”
“Nothing although…” He reached for Catherine’s hand as he continued to speak to Jenny, he wanted Catherine to hear this too, he wanted her to share in the knowledge of what had made him decide finally to believe what Jenny and Narcissa had maintained all along. "Strangely enough, I did not plan to ask Catherine to marry me tonight, but for some reason as I was leaving home, Mouse handed me a crystal that I had brought back for Catherine from the crystal cavern two weeks ago and asked him to polish it as a gift for her. On my way to the park I examined it, surprised to find that he had fashioned it into a ring. That startled me, but knowing that I should allow destiny to carry me along, I let it be. I waited for Catherine in the park. Everywhere was still, despite the fact that people were about, it was as if I’d been enfolded in my own little cocoon where everything was made of magic and then I saw Catherine coming to me from out of the mist across the park, and oh Jenny…she took my breath away…and I realised in that instance…just how much I loved her…” He turned to Catherine then, squeezing her hand and smiling, showing his sincerity and just what she meant to him by the look of love in his eyes.
“And?” Jenny asked excitedly.
“And when she told me that she loved me…well it all fell into place…you could say…that on a night like this…I was bewitched…and I suddenly knew the truth of everything that you and Narcissa had maintained…that Catherine and I were one. Destiny had entwined our futures together so who was I to fight it any longer?”
“And so you asked her to marry you?”
“And she said yes. What without any hesitation?”
Vincent chuckled, “Yes.”
“Oh Vincent…put her on will you, I just have to extend my congratulations.”
Listening to the two women speaking Vincent felt immensely proud of the moment, they spoke at length about bridesmaids, and dresses, and flowers, things he had not even begun to imagine…and set his own thoughts whirling away with possibilities. Father officiating, the Master blessing, Devin as best man, William baking a three tiered cake…their honeymoon…their honeymoon…their honeymoon…. For some reason he could not think past that occasion and was filled with a need and a longing so strong that he was doubtful that he would even make it that far, until finally Catherine, seeming to suspect something via their connection took pity on him and promised Jenny she would be in touch as soon as possible. “I’m going below now Jen, come down whenever you can. In fact help me shift some of my stuff down there will you?”
Jenny agreed and finally the call was ended, leaving Catherine to look up at Vincent with all the love she felt for him apparent in her eyes. “I’m all yours now my love. Are you ready to take me home?”
Sweeping her into his arms Vincent carried her from the apartment into the elevator and back outside to the park where they ran hand in hand across the grass laughing like children until they reached the storm drain where once again Vincent swept Catherine off her feet to kiss her passionately with all the love he felt for her, and then prepared to carry her all the way down to his world when she stopped him, “One moment, baby, there’s something I have to do.”
Setting her down Vincent was bemused as he watched Catherine walk back out into the night hold her face to the stars whisper something, then return to him smiling happily.
“What did you do?” He asked with wonder as they finally set foot inside the tunnels toward her new home at last.
“We thanked Jenny, and we’ll thank Narcissa, but there was just someone we didn’t thank…so I did it for us…” She chuckled and linking his arm with hers told him, “Vincent, I just thanked whomsoever else was responsible for the night I was bewitched.”
Beside her Vincent stopped, turned and taking her lead went back out into the night, and there beneath a sky bursting with stars he whispered to whomsoever was listening…'thank you…thank you…thank you…'
*** *** ***
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.